The Future of Natural Gas | Terraform

Episode 36 of S³

We're in an energy and climate crisis, it's paradoxical. Hydrocarbons are powerful and portable, but limited and environmentally costly.

For Episode 36 of S³ CEO and Founder Casey Handmer of Terraform goes in-depth and reveals how they're making natural gas from thin air.

The Terraform system

Terraform’s Gen 5 reactor.

Terraform's system has 3 key components:

  1. Direct air capture (DAC) of CO2

  2. Alkaline water electrolysis to produce H2

  3. A reactor that combines the CO2 and H2 to produce CH4 (methane/natural gas).

Terraform’s DAC system

The DAC system captures CO2 from the air using calcium oxide (lime) in a kiln, and a very large [potential] pasta mixer.

The CO2 is then released for use in the reactor. This provides the carbon source without drilling/fracking.

Terraform’s electrolyzer

Alkaline water electrolysis splits water (H2O) into H2 and O2 using solar-generated electricity. This provides the hydrogen for the reactor without using natural gas (the usual source of H2).

Terraform's approach prioritizes low cost over efficiency.

In the reactor, CO2 and H2 are combined at the right temperature and pressure with a catalyst to produce CH4 and water. This is the reverse of the usual steam reforming process used to produce H2 from CH4.

Massive effect

The end result is pipeline-grade synthetic natural gas produced using just solar energy, water, and air.

No fossil fuels involved.

If scaled up, this process could provide the 60-80% of global energy that currently comes from hydrocarbons in a sustainable carbon-neutral way.

Commercializing this will be an immense challenge.

Casey estimates that billions of Terraform units could eventually be needed globally. But the potential impact is enormous - each year faster could avoid 50 Gt of CO2 emissions.

Casey showing off the fun 3D prints associated with the scale visualization of a 5 acre solar farm and Terraformer.

I think Casey is our generation's Richard Feynman.

He's brilliant, quite funny, and if you check out his website he shows a general curiosity and excitement for life that's truly refreshing. He also writes my favorite blog on the internet!

We need more people like Casey who combine polymathic knowledge with the drive to build solutions to make the world a better place.

Ambitious visions + relentless iteration = progress.

Keep on building the future,

— Jason