Tuesday 20th of February 2018 | Posted In: Generate, Generating energy, Renewable energy

Producing energy on Mars

As Elon Musk’s Space X launched its Falcon Heavy rocket for the first time a few weeks ago with the aim to send a Tesla car and mannequin towards Mars’ orbit, we ask could life on Mars be getting closer?

Space X is aiming to send the first humans to Mars by 2024; one of the main problems to overcome is how humans will generate energy for a possible colony on Mars. There are a number of ideas being tossed around the space community, including the obvious choice of solar panels.

However, Space X wants to go in another direction by taking advantage of Mars’ atmospheric conditions, which are primarily made up of CO2 at approximately 95%. One way they are looking at doing so is through the Sabatier Reaction, a process that could take advantage of Mars’ atmosphere and be the key to powering future colonies on Mars.

The Sabatier Reaction uses CO2 and hydrogen to produce water and methane, which can be injected into a gas network to produce electricity, via a catalyst, and is demonstrated by the reaction below:

CO2 + 4H2 → CH4 + 2H2O    at approx. 300-400°C        - Sabatier Reaction

2H2O → 2H2 + O2                  and 1.23V of electricity     - Electrolysis of Water

These reactions are already being used on the International Space Station to recover water from exhaled CO2 from astronauts and there are actually many other applications for this reaction closer to home as well. A lot of our clients use natural gas and biogas to power combined heat and power (CHP) engines to produce electricity, heat and CO, which are used to operate their sites. Being able to capture the CO2, and produce hydrogen from the electrolysis of water, could be a way of recovering more methane to power their CHP engines and reducing CO2 escaping to the atmosphere.

For an example, take an AD plant with a biogas CHP engine, claiming Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) payments, injecting 5 million m³ of biomethane into the gas network per year and, we assume, that the biogas produced was made up of 50% methane, 45% CO2 and 5% of other trace gases. By installing a Sabatier Process to recycle the stripped CO2, you could almost double the methane produced and you could also double the RHI income and the gas! At the moment, lots of sites recover the CO2 from the digestion process, but they compress it and sell it as CO2 to the food and beverage industry. If you can convert it into methane, then you are quid’s in (depending on the capital cost and running cost of the process).

If you would like more information please talk to myself or Oli Coe on 024 7669 8899.