In a unique approach, the University of Alberta (U of A) developed a fuel cell that can combine natural gas, CO2 and air to produce carbon monoxide (CO), water and electricity. Where traditional conversion methods consume energy, this reaction creates it. It also creates water and CO, an important and profitable commercial chemical.

Using the fuel cell, the U of A created a reaction to combine methane (CH4), CO2, and oxygen to produce carbon monoxide (CO) and water and electricity. Fuel cells are normally used to generate electricity while burning a fuel. When fossil fuels are used, electricity generation leads to GHG emissions. However, in this case, the fuel cell simultaneously eliminates CO2, produces an important industrial raw material, and still generates an amount of electricity comparable to a normal fuel cell. The U of A’s fuel cell consists of an electrolyte tube with the CH4-plus-CO2 mixture flowing on one side and air on the other. A mixture of CO and H2O comes out from the downstream end, and the produced CO can be used as a raw material to make many important industrial chemicals.