Ah, science. Air Fuel Synthesis, a small British company based in Stockton-on-Tees, has produced the first “petrol from air”. The scientists used revolutionary technology that “promises to solve the energy crisis as well as help to curb global warming by removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.”
Tim Fox, head of energy and the environment at the Institution of Mechanical Engineers in London, said:
It sounds too good to be true, but it is true. They are doing it and I’ve been up there myself and seen it. The innovation is that they have made it happen as a process. It’s a small pilot plant capturing air and extracting CO2 from it based on well-known principles. It uses well-known and well-established components but what is exciting is that they have put the whole thing together and shown that it can work.
Still in the early stages of mass production – thus far only five litres of petrol has been produced since August when Air Fuel Synthesis switched on a small refinery that manufactures gasoline from carbon dioxide and water vapour – the scientists hope that within two years they will be able to build a larger, commercial-scale plant.
This plant they hope, would be capable of producing a ton of petrol a day. Included in those plans, is the aim to produce green aviation fuel to make airline travel more carbon-neutral. Aside from the green benefits, the cost of flying could also come down in the long term as a result.
Peter Harrison, the company’s chief executive, believes his company will eventually be able to use power from “renewable sources such as wind farms or tidal barrages.” At the moment, they still need to take electricity from the national grid for the process to work, which is no biggy, considering what they’ve achieved.
We’ve taken carbon dioxide from air and hydrogen from water and turned these elements into petrol. There’s nobody else doing it in this country or indeed overseas as far as we know. It looks and smells like petrol but it’s a much cleaner and clearer product than petrol derived from fossil oil. “We don’t have any of the additives and nasty bits found in conventional petrol, and yet our fuel can be used in existing engines. It means that people could go on to a garage forecourt and put our product into their car without having to install batteries or adapt the vehicle for fuel cells or having hydrogen tanks fitted. It means that the existing infrastructure for transport can be used. We are converting renewable electricity into a more versatile, useable and storable form of energy, namely liquid transport fuels. We think that by the end of 2014, provided we can get the funding going, we can be producing petrol using renewable energy and doing it on a commercial basis. We ought to be aiming for a refinery-scale operation within the next 15 years. The issue is making sure the UK is in a good place to be able to set up and establish all the manufacturing processes that this technology requires. You have the potential to change the economics of a country if you can make your own fuel.
Harrison continued that the technology would be ideal for remote communities “that have abundant sources of renewable electricity, such solar energy, wind turbines or wave energy, but little in the way of storing it.”
We’re talking to a number of island communities around the world and other niche markets to help solve their energy problems. You’re in a market place where the only way is up for the price of fossil oil and at some point there will be a crossover where our fuel becomes cheaper.
So far, the initial plan is to “produce petrol that can be blended with conventional fuel, which would suit the high-performance fuels needed in motor sports.”
Costs are obviously extremely high at the moment – R5 500 to capture one ton of carbon dioxide – but like any technology, this should come down in time.
[Source: The Independent]
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