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Watch Out Tesla, Aramco's Carbon Capture Truck Is Coming
  Saudi Arabia

 December 13, 2017

Saudi Arabia, a country that has some of the world’s largest oil deposits and subsidizes gasoline for all of its residents, seems like a very unlikely spot to be conducting cutting edge research on carbon capture technology. Not only is Saudi Arabia researching new ways to keep harmful carbon emissions out of the atmosphere , it is building and testing prototype carbon capture vehicles that could very well be on the road in the not so distant future.

Most carbon capture research and technology has focused on power plants. “Clean coal” technology has been around since the early 2000s and was a hallmark of George W. Bush’s energy legislation. The idea is to capture the harmful carbon emissions that coal power plants send into the atmosphere, concentrate them and then finally “sequester” them in the ground. In the United States at least two government-funded power plants were launched to put this technology into use, but by 2013, the plans for both were abandoned before they were ever built.

In Saudi Arabia, however, Aramco (the state-owned oil company) has a different approach to carbon-capture technology, and it even has a workable prototype.

Aramco does not only produce about 10 millions of barrels of crude oil along with vast quantities of gasoline and petrochemicals each day. It also houses a rapidly growing force of scientists and engineers who are busy researching and building new technologies. I recently had the opportunity to visit its research and development center at the company’s headquarters in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, where much of this groundbreaking innovation is taking place.

One of the most compelling feats of technology and engineering I saw was its carbon capture car. I asked why they focus on the automobile when most carbon capture technology has centered on the power plant? They told me that 25% of CO2 emissions come from the transportation sector. Aramco knows that much of the crude oil it produces and sells contributes to this and wants to sequester the harmful emissions before the emissions are released into the atmosphere.

Aramco's prototype automobile captures the carbon emissions and compresses them inside the car itself so that they can be removed and dumped at a station the next time the car is refueled. In addition, an energy conversion compression mechanism captures waste heat produced in the process.

The vehicle I saw was a sedan, but Aramco’s first prototype was a truck. That truck only captured about 10% of the carbon emissions. The carbon capture mechanism of that first prototype took up almost the entire trailer and was excessively heavy. Its next iteration, the sedan, shrunk the carbon capture mechanism and was significantly less heavy. With the sedan, they increased the carbon capture to 25%.

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