For a Greener Footprint: Innovating to Capture Carbon Dioxide

It is widely known that carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases are capable of trapping heat from various sources in the Earth’s atmosphere, contributing to global warming trends. Carbon dioxide (CO2) is the most abundant of these gases; the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency reported that in 2012, carbon dioxide accounted for 82 percent of all U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. More than 50 percent of these carbon emissions come from industrial and automotive sources.

Because of the progress of climate change in our modern world, many experts have called for research into methods of capturing and storing carbon to keep it out of the atmosphere as one of the world’s best chances for fighting climate change. In late April, the European Union awarded 300 million euros to fund a carbon capture project in England which will siphon CO2 from a nearby coal power plant and store it in the ground.

Although carbon capture technologies exist, the scale of carbon dioxide that needs to be drawn from the atmosphere to combat the effects of climate change is very discouraging. We seem to be many years, if not decades, away from any realistically deployable solution. Nevertheless, we wanted to wrap up our coverage of Earth Day 2014 at IPWatchdog, albeit a little bit late, with a look at developments in this very important technological field. To do this we profile recently published patent applications found in our search of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office database, focusing on carbon capture and mitigation technologies.

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Delivery Service Carbon Calculator
U.S. Patent Application No. 20140067698

Greenhouse gases like carbon are created by a number of activities other than driving a vehicle or burning harmful substances. Whenever a person buys an item, they’re supporting a supply chain that creates carbon emissions in industrial facilities across the world. Although sending a package through a delivery service is often more efficient than physically bringing it to a destination, part of the carbon emissions created in transportation are attributable to sending that package.

This patent application was filed by Richard Parlier, Jr., of Richmond, VA, with the USPTO in August 2012 to protect a system for determining the carbon emissions of a delivery service. The system, essentially a carbon calculator, can associate carbon emissions with specific products being delivered to a destination. The emissions cost for that product can be folded into the delivery price for that package. The system also generates a report detailing the emissions created by the package, incorporating delivery distance and package weight.

Claim 1 of this patent application would give the solo inventor the right to protect:

“A method for generating emission data for delivery service products, comprising: executing a module stored in memory, the module executed by a processor to attribute a first emission stored in memory to two or more products delivered by a delivery company; accessing costs stored in memory and associated with two or more sub-products for at least one of the two or more products; and executing a module stored in memory, the module executed by a processor to attribute the product emissions to the two or more sub-products based on one or more of the sub-product costs to determine the emission for each of the two or more sub-products.”

 

Greenhouse Gas Grid and Tracking System
U.S. Patent Application No. 20140081579

Many people may be familiar with the idea of carbon offset credits and systems, even if they don’t understand how those systems work. These carbon offsets typically rely on carbon or greenhouse gas offset markets, which can be either regulatory or voluntary in nature, in which carbon credits are traded. Credits are purchased to cover a certain amount of carbon emissions created by a person or organization. The money used to buy these credits go to fund a variety of credible activities, such as reforestation or protection of existing forests

In August 2013, this patent application was filed by Carbon Auditors Inc. of Hydes, MD, with the USPTO to protect a system that better monitors and reports the effects of carbon offset activities. The computerized system is able to monitor carbon levels in the atmosphere of a geographical area, within which a carbon offset activity is being performed. The system performs scientific analysis of this information to determine precisely how much carbon has been sequestered or stored through an offset activity.

As Claim 1 of this patent application states, Carbon Auditors is seeking to protect:

“A method of monitoring the effectiveness of a target greenhouse gas offset activity within a geographical boundary of an offset project, comprising: the use of text retrieval software and/or search technology to key word retrieve/search for relevant information on monitoring and/or reporting of a vegetation attribute from one or more target policies to compile policy parameters for the target greenhousegas; use of text retrieval software and/or search technology to key word retrieve/search for generating directions for monitoring the target greenhouse gas offset activity within the target geographical boundary of the offset project, to generate a science plan for monitoring the effectiveness of target greenhouse gas offset activity for the target geographical boundary of the offset project, based upon the compiled policy parameters; generating a geospatial database including remote sensing imagery for monitoring the target greenhouse gas offset activity within the target geographical boundary of the offset project that is based on the generated science plan; generating an allometric model for the target greenhouse gas offset activity within the geographical boundary of the offset project, based upon the science plan for monitoring the target greenhouse gas offset activity for the target geographical boundary and the contents of the geospatial database; the generation of the allometric model includes one or more functions of fractions, regressions, and/or classifications between the contents of the geospatial database and the target greenhouse gas within the target geographic boundary of the offset project; and generating new geospatial data which predicts the effectiveness of the target greenhouse gas offset activity within the target geographical boundary of the offset project based upon the policy parameters, science plan and the allometric model, wherein the generated geospatial data which predicts the effectiveness of target greenhouse gas offset activity is based upon one or more measurements of a vegetation attribute within the target geographical boundary of the offset project and upon mapped geospatial outputs of the allometric model of fractions, regressions, and/or classifications, wherein the allometric model of fractions relate a biophysical element of a vegetation attribute to another biophysical element of a vegetation attribute, and the allometric model of regression and/or classification functions relate a physical measurement of a vegetation attribute to digital information of another vegetation attribute measurable in pixels of remote sensing imagery, and wherein the allometric functions of regressions and/or classifications are based upon a physical sample for a measurement of a vegetation attribute that has a geographical coordinate and a sample of pixels from remote sensing imagery that are at the same or a similar geographical coordinate as the physical sample of the vegetation attribute.”

It needs to be noted that, although this technology does seemingly provide a very useful service for carbon offset credit systems, the incredible length of Claim 1 will likely hurt the chances that this technology would be widely licensed or deemed commercially viable. It also worth noting that this is a divisional patent application that claims priority to an earlier provisional patent application.

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Generating Power from Hydrocarbon Deposits While Capturing Carbon Dioxide
U.S. Patent Application No. 20140038070

Even with all of the discussion about the dangers of carbon over the past few decades, it is still important to remember that carbon is one of the most prevalent materials in our universe. The presence of carbon underneath the Earth’s crust typically isn’t considered to be pollutive, but when carbon-based fuel sources are incinerated to generate power, the trapped carbon is released into the atmosphere, where it is able to create the warming blanket effect that has been creating a general warming trend across the planet.

This patent application was filed in September 2013 with the USPTO by solo inventor Christopher Papile of Arlington, MA, to protect a method of disposing of bulk forms of carbon dioxide. The method of disposing carbon dioxide would also be capable of generating useful power for various applications. Bulk carbon dioxide waste from industrial sources and inserted as hydrocarbon deposits into the ground. As the liquified carbon is heated by geothermal gases under the ground as it’s deposited, the heat exchange can be used to run a turbine that generates electricity. By removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and placing it underground, this substance may be better absorbed by plant life for the creation of biomass.

Claim 162 (Claims 1 through 162 cancelled) of this patent application would give legal protections to the solo inventor for:

“A method comprising: inserting one or more fuel cells into a natural underground hydrocarbon reservoir from above ground; positioning an anode of said fuel cell in contact with a hydrocarbon deposit in said hydrocarbon reservoir to generate an electric current and emit carbon dioxide; and capturing at least a portion of said emitted carbon dioxide within said hydrocarbon reservoir.”

 

Other Patent Applications in Carbon Capture

Although the proliferation of greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide poses about as much of a threat to our world as non-renewable forms of energy or pollution, we noticed far fewer patent applications in this field than for our other Earth Day 2014 coverage areas. We did notice a few patent applications, however, that do describe novel methods of capturing carbon from individual sources that our readers would interact with on a daily basis. For example, U.S. Patent Application No. 20140099245, titled Process and System Employing Phase-Changing Absorbents and Magnetically Responsive Sorbent Particles for On-Board Recovery of Carbon Dioxide from Mobile Sources, discusses a method of reducing carbon dioxide emission discharged by exhaust from an internal combustion engine. This patent application, filed by the Saudi Arabian Oil Company of Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, would help reduce the one-quarter of global carbon dioxide emissions coming from vehicle sources by treating the exhaust stream with a CO2 capture agent. U.S. Patent Application No. 20140044632, titled Method and Apparatus for Removal of Carbon Dioxide from Automobile, Household and Industrial Exhaust Gases, describes a similar system of capturing carbon dioxide from gas exhaust streams by using cartridges including an absorbent agent. This system, useful for vehicles, household heating systems as well as industrial applications, would be able to track the amount of carbon captured by cartridges and turned in by a user so as to offer incentives through a carbon credit system.

A number of other inventions in the field of carbon capture focus on new chemical compositions capable of capturing higher amounts of carbon from atmospheric sources. U.S. Patent Application No. 20140024091, entitled Use of Oxyhydrogen Microorganisms for Non-Photosynthetic Carbon Capture and Conversion of Inorganic and/or C1 Carbon Sources into Useful Organic Compounds, would protect the use of microorganisms to convert CO2 into biomass material. Filed by Kiverdi, Inc., of Berkeley, CA, this system is capable of forming longer organic chains of carbon than previous capture systems, enabling the harvest of more energy-rich carbon.

From U.S. Patent Application No. 20140024091, entitled “Use of Oxyhydrogen Microorganisms for Non-Photosynthetic Carbon Capture and Conversion of Inorganic and/or C1 Carbon Sources into Useful Organic Compounds.”

 

The Author

Steve Brachmann

Steve Brachmann is a freelance journalist located in Buffalo, New York. He has worked professionally as a freelancer for more than a decade. He writes about technology and innovation. His work has been published by The Buffalo News, The Hamburg Sun, USAToday.com, Chron.com, Motley Fool and OpenLettersMonthly.com. Steve also provides website copy and documents for various business clients and is available for research projects and freelance work.

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