President of Iceland gives geothermal perspective
President Grimsson is an ambassador for geothermal energy in all countries of the world and that is part of why a three-day geothermal conference with representation from approximately 40 countries is being conducted with the closing sessions Thursday.
In the early 1970s, Iceland was still classified as a developing nation, geothermal technology along with a commitment that all the homes in Iceland would be connected to geothermal heating pipes or electricity from geothermal power plants and weaned away from hydro power, moved the country into being a new leader in technology.
Continued recovery from the recent economic crisis has Iceland moving into a better place financially. The country had a horrible setback with the financial crisis of 2008 but is steadily building back. Before the crisis, investment and projections of success had the country expanding as fast as contractors could put up new office buildings and residences.
Because of geothermal energy, “Iceland is a strong magnet for foreign investment” once again, the president said. “It is a major reason why we are recovering more effectively after the budget crisis than other countries,” he added.
“I see it as my fundamentally moral duty to demonstrate to other countries that we can in fact execute a fundamental change and this is not just a pipe dream or empty geology…It is an extraordinarily good business. It probably is the best thing that we have done in this country since the foundation of the republic,” he noted.
The carbon dioxide (CO2) from the geothermal power plants in Iceland will be the main raw material for methanol being produced in Iceland. Two Americans and two Icelanders put together a company that produces a branded methanol—Vulcanol.
A pilot plant to convert CO2 and hydrogen into methanol is in operation near one of Iceland’s power plants. This production operation is a startup that will lead to at least two more Vulcanol plants, according to Benedikt Stefánsson, director of business development for Carbon Recycling International.
“We take flue gas from the (geothermal) power plant, which contains steam and non-condensable gases. Those gases are primarily carbon dioxide and hydrogen sulfide (HS2). We have to separate the hydrogen sulfide from the carbon dioxide in a gas conditioning phase and extract a pure stream of carbon dioxide. We then take electric power…from the national grid—to electrolyze water, which means to split water using electrons basically to separate the water into hydrogen and oxygen. Then we take the hydrogen, which is energy and combine it with carbon dioxide through a synthetic process to make methanol. The formula for methanol contains one carbon atom, four hydrogen atoms and one oxygen atom,” Stefánsson said. Another oxygen atom would make the methanol a gas—methane.