Could transforming processes for greener fossil fuel power AI?

9 July 2024AI, Data, Digital Transformation, Industrial and Plant, SustainabilityAI, Carbon, data center, digital innovation, green energy, green hydrogen, renewable energy, solar, sustainable energy

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The surge in artificial intelligence (AI) technology is revolutionizing numerous industries, from healthcare to construction. However, this technological leap is not without challenges, particularly in terms of energy consumption.

The computing power required for AI operations is driving an unprecedented increase in data center power demand. According to a 2024 Goldman Sachs article, data centers are projected to consume 8% of the total power in the U.S. by 2030, up from 3% in 2022. This dramatic rise will necessitate significant investments in new power generation capacity, estimated at $50-billion, to support the growing energy needs.

overhead power lines lit with amber color strung on transmission towers, green fossil fuel

Traditional power generation methods primarily involve burning fossil fuels to heat water into steam that drives turbines to generate electricity. These processes release carbon dioxide (CO2) as a waste product. In response, innovative solutions are being developed to create greener fossil fuel processes that can meet the rising power demands of AI while minimizing environmental impact.

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One notable advancement in this field comes from NET Power, a 14-year-old energy company based in North Carolina. As highlighted in a June 2024 Wall Street Journal article, NET Power is developing a novel natural gas power plant that utilizes CO2 to spin a turbine and generate electricity. This cutting-edge technology is designed to eliminate 97% of carbon emissions, marking a significant leap toward greener fossil fuel use.


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Another promising approach involves the use of supercritical CO2 in closed-cycle gas turbines. According to the Wisconsin Energy Institute, replacing traditional steam turbine systems with these advanced turbines could boost power generation efficiency by over 50%. Supercritical CO2, which exhibits properties of both a liquid and a gas, can serve as a highly efficient working fluid in these systems. Researchers and the energy industry in Wisconsin are collaborating to develop the necessary components for large-scale deployment of supercritical CO2 closed-cycle gas turbine power systems.

picture of a gas turbine electrical power plant, greener fossil fuels

Green hydrogen also represents a significant opportunity for greener energy production. Currently, green hydrogen can be produced at scale using two primary technologies: alkaline water (ALK) electrolysis and proton exchange membrane (PEM) electrolysis. Green hydrogen is created by using electricity to split water into hydrogen and oxygen, with the hydrogen used as fuel and the oxygen released as a clean byproduct. The U.S. Department of Energy has highlighted the potential for green hydrogen to reduce carbon emissions in challenging industries such as steel production and aviation.

sustainability, greener fossil fuel, AI

Despite the growth in renewable energy investments, the consistent energy output required by data centers and other industries cannot yet be reliably met by sources like wind and solar alone. This reality underscores the need for continued research into decarbonizing fossil fuels, enabling the production of cleaner energy while maintaining the reliability and consistency of supply.

wind turbines behind two arrays of solar panels, green grass foreground and amber sky from setting sun, greener fossil fuels

Efforts to capture and sequester carbon have seen mixed success, with some methods focusing on burying CO2 underground or in the ocean. However, more promising are technologies that reuse CO2 to run turbines. An operational power plant is planned to showcase this approach, with plans to reportedly invest $1-billion in a commercial facility in West Texas that’s expected to be operational by 2027. This plant aims to perfect the process of utilizing CO2 emissions from gas fired power plants to generate electricity, reducing the carbon footprint of fossil fuel power generation.

 

While AI continues to drive increased energy demand, innovations in greener fossil fuel processes hold significant promise for meeting this demand sustainably. Technologies such as CO2-based turbines, supercritical CO2 closed-cycle gas turbines, and green hydrogen production are paving the way for a future where greener fossil fuels can be used with reduced environmental impact. Such advancements are crucial for balancing the growing energy needs of AI with the demand to reduce carbon emissions. Indeed, transforming processes for greener fossil fuel could help power AI.


To stay competitive and thrive in this dynamic market, your company may need an innovative operating model. Contact Applied Software, GRAITEC Group today to learn about the Digital Innovation Framework™.

Your journey to modeling the future starts here.


 

 

 

 

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