Led by a team from Taiwan’s National Cheng Kung University (NCKU), Taiwan’s first carbon-negative demonstration factory is making its way to the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP28) in Dubai this year. The factory focuses on phasing out underground fossil fuels/resources, converting surface-level CO2 into economically valuable green fuel energy and consumer chemicals/materials. It has become one of the highlights of the event.
Heading the initiative is Professor Chuh-Yung Chen, the convener of the carbon reduction/negativity sector in Taiwan Science and Technology Office for Net Zero Emission and a specially appointed professor in the Department of Chemical Engineering at NCKU. In an interview with 《The Icons》 at COP28, Professor Chen expressed excitement, saying:
“Thanks to the Ministry of Education and President Shen of NCKU for allowing Taiwan’s research achievements to be presented at the United Nations. The artificial synthesis of green natural gas technology showcased at COP28 can convert hydrogen and CO2 into economically valuable ‘e-methane,’ ‘e-ethane,’ and ‘e-propane.’ This not only replaces traditional fossil fuels but also achieves carbon circular economy! Moreover, the global green hydrogen standard introduced the second generation ‘Green Hydrogen Standard 2.0’ at COP28, incorporating artificial synthesized natural gas into the global standard for green hydrogen derivatives. This is a joint commitment of the international community to the sustainable future of energy, highlighting the commercial application potential and international collaboration prospects of artificial synthesized green natural gas, accelerating the global low-carbon transformation of energy.”
In addition to e-methane, which provides a shortcut to carbon neutrality, Professor Chen highlighted the transformation of biogas into economically valuable green synthesis gas (CO+H2), another highlight of the event.
Turning CO2 into Resources
COP28, focusing on energy transition and the gradual elimination of fossil fuels, featured a speech from the NCKU team that immediately became a hotspot at the conference. NCKU, supported by the Ministry of Education’s “Regional Industry Talent and Technology Development Base Project” with NCKU President Meng-Ru Shen as the project leader, has pioneered the country’s first “Carbon Neutrality Technology and Talent Cultivation Base.” The NCKU team collaborated with the Taiwan Climate Partnership to hold the forum “Carbon Cycle Economy: The Green Revolution and Technological Innovation in the Global Petrochemical and Energy Industries” on December 8 at COP28.
Under the leadership of Professor Chuh-Yung Chen, the team, including Professor Cheng-Chien Wang, Dean of the College of Engineering at Southern Taiwan University of Science and Technology, and ESG expert Dr. Wei-Hua Chien, focused on “Artificial Synthesis of Green Natural Gas” and “Reuse of Biogas,” convincing experts worldwide that CO2, once considered waste, can now be turned into a valuable resource. Professor Chen emphasized the need for international cooperation, saying, “This technology absolutely requires international collaboration to make a positive contribution to global climate change from a global perspective.”
E-Methane Provides a Carbon-Neutral Shortcut
Professor Chen recalled that Taiwan’s Vice President Ching-Te Lai expressed at the inauguration ceremony of Taiwan’s first carbon-negative demonstration factory that the transition to net-zero has become an established international game, and Taiwan cannot be absent. The NCKU team, representing Taiwan, has lived up to expectations.
“The past petroleum economy has gradually shifted toward a carbon circular economy. This time, we can feel that COP28 has made a clearer resolution about phasing out fossil fuels. The global demand for energy transition is growing. Against this backdrop, NCKU’s carbon-negative demonstration factory uses a core catalyst with low-temperature reaction (low energy consumption) and high selectivity to capture and convert CO2 into artificial synthesized green natural gas, which is an environmentally friendly synthetic ‘e-methane,’ as well as ‘e-ethane’ and ‘e-propane.’ This not only replaces traditional fossil fuels but also achieves a carbon circular economy,” Professor Chen said. E-methane can be used in existing natural gas supply facilities to achieve carbon neutrality and is already part of the green energy strategies for achieving net-zero emissions by 2050 in regions such as the European Union and Japan.
Chuh-Yung Chen: Conversion of Biogas into Green Synthesis Gas with Economic Value (CO+H2)
Professor Chen pointed out that the difficulty in promoting carbon capture lies in the inability to establish a scaled carbon circular economy. If captured CO2 is treated as waste and buried underground, it is challenging to create additional economic benefits, and the cost becomes unrecoverable. This inevitably reduces the willingness of companies to invest. The carbon-negative demonstration factory showcased by NCKU can transform carbon pollutants (CO2/CO) into resources, demonstrating the potential for a carbon circular economy.
Cheng-Chien Wang: Out with the Old, In with the New, Establishing an Artificial Carbon Cycle
Regarding the net-zero carbon target for 2050, Professor Cheng-Chien Wang, Dean of the College of Engineering at Southern Taiwan University of Science and Technology, pointed out that although countries are actively developing low-carbon and decarbonization technologies to significantly reduce CO2 emissions, the new technologies have yet to replace high-carbon-emission equipment. Therefore, how to “capture” the currently continuously emitted CO2, quickly reduce carbon emissions, and even further transform CO2 into chemicals/materials or fuels to replace existing products derived from petrochemical raw materials is a direction that countries should actively consider.
“Our team has been involved in new types of carbon capture absorbents that can efficiently convert CO2 into pollution-free artificial shale gas technology. This system aligns with this year’s COP28 theme of ‘Eliminating Fossil Fuels.’ We have found alternative methods and procedures to replace fossil fuels, and we have even established a pilot plant, starting to collect engineering data for reference in subsequent development.”
Professor Wang hopes to find international partners at COP28, using global green hydrogen resources to transport Taiwan’s major carbon emitter, especially CO2 captured by Taiwan Power Company, abroad. After converting CO2 into e-methane, e-ethane, and e-propane, these products can be transported back to Taiwan, completely replacing the current demand for LNG domestically. This will achieve the complete self-production of Taiwan’s artificially synthesized green natural gas energy, significantly reducing the carbon emission coefficient of electricity. It will have a decisive impact on Taiwan’s high-energy-consuming industries such as semiconductors, steel, electronics, machine tools, and the petrochemical industry in achieving net-zero goals, contributing to the sustainable development of the world.
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