Obrist Group Plans Gigaplants for Methanol Production as a Climate-positive Global Energy Source

By: Obrist Group

  • Each gigaplant removes more than 6.2 billion tons of CO2 from the atmosphere every year 
  • With 2,700 gigaplants, fossil fuels could be completely replaced
  • CEO Frank Obrist: “At just under 6 cents per kilowatt hour, methanol is far more cost-effective than any other energy source. This will free up market forces for the nearly $50 trillion cost of building the gigaplants. By 2150, the CO2 concentration in the atmosphere can be reduced to the 1950 level.”
  • CEO Frank Obrist will present his concept at the Global Energy Summit of the think tank Diplomatic Council with UN consultant status on May 28 at 3 pm CET (Central European Time). Participation is free of charge after registration: www.diplomatic-council.org/energysummit2024 

Lindau/Germany, Lustenau/Austria – May, 21, 2024 – The German-Austrian industrial group Obrist Group is planning to build so-called gigaplants, a type of giant solar park that will not supply electricity, but green methanol. During production, more climate-damaging carbon dioxide (CO2) is removed from the atmosphere than is released during subsequent use, claims company CEO Frank Obrist. As a result, the gigaplants are said to be CO2-negative and therefore climate-positive. “Net zero is not enough, we are going for net negative,” says the inventor, entrepreneur and visionary: “In order to leave an intact climate for future generations, we need to recapture the carbon dioxide emitted through the extensive use of fossil fuels, i.e. remove it from the atmosphere.” Obrist holds 190 patents that should make this possible. The United Nations supports the concept. The United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) recently named the Obrist concept “The Most Promising Solution Award Winner in Energy Efficiency Category”.

Four million tons of methanol per gigaplant per year

The specifications of the planned gigaplants are impressive. Almost four million tons of methanol are to be produced per year on an area of around 280 square kilometers. At today’s energy prices, this corresponds to a sales volume of around 4.3 billion US dollars per year. The annual operating costs are estimated at around 340 million dollars, leaving a gross profit of almost four billion dollars a year. The construction costs for a gigaplant, calculated at 18.6 billion dollars, would therefore be recouped in less than five years, which corresponds to an annual return on capital costs of over 21 percent.

However, the high profitability is only possible if the plant is operated in the Earth’s sun belt, where solar power is available at a cost of just 0.88 cents per kilowatt hour due to the intensity of the sun. These so-called electricity generation costs for the conversion of another form of energy into electricity are between 3 and over 5 cents for conventional solar parks, between just under 4 (onshore) and around 12 cents (offshore) for wind power plants, between 7 and 17 cents for biomass, between just under 8 and 13 cents for natural gas, between ten and 20 cents for hard coal and lignite and between 3.5 and 8 cents per kilowatt hour for nuclear power plants. The Obrist concept therefore generates electricity at more than three times the cost of the cheapest alternative method.

Low costs thanks to production in the desert

However, as electricity is difficult to store on a large scale and even more difficult to transport, it is “only” used for electrolysis in the gigaplant to produce hydrogen from water in the first step and methanol from this in the second step. Methanol is liquid at normal temperature and can be transported via all the transportation routes that already exist today for fossil fuels (pipelines, tankers, tanker trucks, etc.). 

The water required for methanol production does not have to be added to the plant because it is taken from the air. A humidity level of ten percent, which is even found in the desert, is sufficient to produce the coveted methanol. The gigaplants can therefore be set up in deserts or on other wasteland that could not be used for any other purpose anyway. This keeps costs low and there are no conflicts with settlement projects or agriculture. The Obrist Group puts the cost of liquid methanol produced using solar energy and “desert water” at less than 6 cents per kilowatt hour, far less than any other known energy source. What’s more, unlike other sustainable energy generation methods such as photovoltaics or wind power, methanol is base-load capable and is therefore available regardless of weather conditions.

Over six billion tons of CO2 from the atmosphere

More important for the climate than the yield: Gigaplant is expected to remove more than 6.2 billion tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere every year. This means that the gigantic energy factory will be CO2-negative on a large scale – more CO2 will be taken out of the atmosphere than is later returned when the synthetic fuel methanol is used. Experts refer to this as Direct Air Capture (DAC). 

As a side effect, around 228,000 tons of carbon are produced each year, which can be used to manufacture carbon fibres or plastics, thus increasing the economic efficiency of the plant. The climate benefits from the more than 6.5 million tons of oxygen that are released into the atmosphere every year during methanol production.

2,700 gigaplants in the fight against the fossil economy

According to calculations by the Obrist Group, around 2,700 gigaplants would be needed to completely replace the use of fossil fuels with green methanol. The total cost of building the clean energy factories would be almost 50,000 billion or 50 trillion dollars. “That’s a huge sum,” admits Frank Obrist, “but in view of a global turnover of around 8 trillion dollars a year with fossil fuels, it’s not utopian.” 

The visionary is also planning for the long term: calculations have shown that by 2150, the CO2 concentration in the atmosphere could be reduced to that of 1950 as a result of the gigaplants. In 1950, the CO2 concentration in the air was around 290 ppm (parts per million), while 420 ppm was measured in 2023. Like many scientists, Frank Obrist expects the peak to be around 450 ppm in 2050. From this peak, the proportion of CO2 could be gradually reduced again over 100 years by “sucking” carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere with the help of gigaplants, according to the plan.

Inventor and entrepreneur Frank Obrist is convinced that for the plan to succeed, market forces must be activated alongside politics. His credo: “Because the production, transportation and use of green methanol is many times cheaper than all fossil fuels or other energy sources such as nuclear power, investments in gigaplants represent an extremely lucrative business model.”

Projects in Namibia, Egypt, Thailand and the USA

The Obrist Group recently entered into a global alliance with EWU Tech, DSE Green Technology Holdings with over 25 European technology partners and Global Enterprises to build gigaplants using the patented Obrist process. Projects worth billions are planned in Namibia, Egypt, Thailand and the USA. According to information, so-called “Sub Zero Funds” are currently being set up for financing, which are experiencing lively demand from both industry and institutional investors. 

Surprising at first glance, but understandable at second glance: there is a particularly strong willingness to invest in the oil-producing regions of the Middle East – the entire region is located in the Earth’s sun belt and could therefore participate just as strongly in the newly emerging methanol economy as it has in the oil business to date, which cannot continue “forever” anyway due to the finite nature of fossil fuels.

Even more important for Frank Obrist: “The economically weaker global South in particular will benefit from the switch to a methanol economy due to its geographical location, because the intensity of the sun is particularly high there. In the Middle East, we have seen how the fossil fuel economy has brought an enormous upswing to an otherwise barren desert region. Gigaplants in Africa and other regions of the global South will bring similar positive local development.” This prospect also proved to be a key argument when the concept was presented at the annual meeting of the UN Commission on Science and Technology for Development in Geneva in spring 2024.

Visualization of an aFuel® Gigaplant for the production of CO2-negative methanol / Source: Obrist Group