Natural Resources Roundup – July 2017

Natural Resources Roundup – July 2017

By Kyle Gracey

Summer vacations haven’t slowed the pace of natural resources innovations. But not all news is good. In this Roundup, I cover carbon neutral mining and better fuel cells, but major blows to two more clean coal plants. Do you have technology news you’d like me to cover? Send me your tips.

DeBeers Aims for Carbon Neutral Mining Within 5 Years

Diamond giant DeBeers says some of its mines will have carbon neutral operations no more than five years from now. The mining operations will still produce carbon pollution. However, the company will offset this pollution by storing carbon in kimberlite waste generated by its diamond mining. The improved mineralization technology will required lower temperatures and pressures compared to previous options. This will lower the cost per ton of carbon captured.

DeBeers will employ three different technologies. The first will rotate tailing pond depositions more frequently to speed up the rate of natural carbon deposition. The second will inject carbon dioxide created on-site into the tailings to force mineralization. The final strategy will introduce carefully selected microbes to the tailings to soak up carbon dioxide from the air and mineralize it with the compounds present in the tailings.

New Fuel Cells Can Use Natural Gas Directly

Solid oxide fuel cells (SOFC) could form the next generation of fuel cells. However, if fueled by a fossil source like natural gas, the operator first has to strip the hydrogen from the input fuel. A new anode catalyst could allow sources like liquefied petroleum gas to be used directly with the SOFC. The catalyst includes layered perovskite with exsolved cobalt and nickel nanoparticles on the surface.

The new catalyst exhibits almost double the power-per-area performance of traditional electrodes. It also shows high durability. Ultimately, this should lower production costs and improve the fuel options for powering the cells. The research is still at the laboratory stage and could take several years or more to impact commercial fuels cells.

Clean Coal Plant Falters

Southern Company announced that its Kemper electricity plant will run exclusively on natural gas. The plant, when first announced in 2006, was expected to operate on both natural gas and coal. Gasification technology should have allowed the coal burning section to emit only the same level of greenhouse gas pollution as the natural gas portion. However, leaks within the coal burning section will add one and a half to two years of additional work, and over $150 million in additional costs, before that portion can operate.

Facing significant cost overruns already on the plant, the company decided to abandon the “clean coal” portion. Other projects to capture the carbon pollution from coal have faced similar challenges. The Department of Energy abandoned its flagship FutureGen project. Earlier this month, two European utilities backed out of a project in the Netherlands.

Image courtesy of

Never miss an insight

Get insights delivered right to your inbox

More of Our Insights & Work

Never miss an insight

Get insights delivered right to your inbox

You have successfully subscribed to our newsletter.

Too many subscribe attempts for this email address.