We hear from all sides about the need to reduce the production of CO2, that is, carbon dioxide. Although it is a topic that is one of the most important in history, many people know almost nothing about CO2. In this article, we will explain what CO2 actually is and how it is with its production.
What is CO2?
Carbon dioxide is an invisible, colorless and odorless gas. This does not prevent it from having mass, specifically weighing 1.964 kg/m3. These equivalents will help you understand the scales we are talking about when we discuss one ton of CO2. CO2 emissions vary from person to person, for example the average person living in Belgium emits 8 tons of CO2 per year. In order to limit global warming to 2 °C, the average per capita level of CO2 emissions on our planet must not exceed 2.1 tones by 2050. Given current emissions, this may seem like an unachievable task.
Where does CO2 come from?
Simply, from combustion, i.e. when you burn petrol, gas, wood etc. All combustible fuels (except hydrogen), whether renewable or fossil, contain carbon. Inside the flame, the carbon reacts with oxygen in the air to produce heat and carbon dioxide. Chemists express this with a little formula: C + O2 = CO2 + heat
And in terms of the mass of the different components, this is: 1 kg of carbon + 2.67 kg of oxygen gives 3.67 kg of carbon dioxide and heat.
How much CO2 is produced per 1 kWh of electricity?
To know this, you need to find out how the energy you consume is produced. Below we will show how many grams of CO2 are produced to produce 1 kWh for different sources of electricity:
- Wind power – 11 grams/1kWh
- Nuclear energy – 12 grams/1kWh
- Solar energy – 27 grams/1kWh
- Gas-fired power plant – 490 grams/1kWh
- Coal-fired power plant – 820 grams/1kWh
Let’s stay with Belgium, where 1 kWh of electricity currently costs 220g of carbon dioxide. In 1998 it was 290g. The reduction in CO2 is mainly due to renewable sources.
How much CO2 do the main fuels produce?
Each fuel contains a greater or lesser amount of carbon. As a result, they emit different amounts of carbon dioxide to produce the same energy. Below we show how many kilograms of CO2 are produced when using different fuels to create 1kWh:
- Coal: 343 grams/1kWh
- Fuel oil: 271 grams/1kWh
- Kerosene: 267 grams/1kWh
- Gasoline: 264 grams/1kWh
- LPG: 231 grams/1kWh
- Natural gas: 206 grams/1kWh