A British firm has produced the first ‘petrol from air’, it emerged today - in a pioneering scientific breakthrough that could end mankind’s reliance on declining fossil fuels.
Air Fuel Synthesis in Stockton-on-Tees, Teesside, claims to have made five litres of petrol since August using a small refinery that synthesises the fuel from carbon dioxide and water vapour.
Experts have hailed the incredible breakthrough as a potential ‘game-changer’ in the battle against climate change and solution to the globe’s escalating energy crisis.
The technology involves mixing air with sodium hydroxide, then electrolysing the resultant sodium carbonate to release pure carbon dioxide.
This is then reacted with hydrogen electrolysed from water to make a hydrocarbon mixture, with the reaction conditions varied depending on the type of fuel desired.
The fuel that is produced can be made ready for use in any petrol tank with the addition of the same additives currently added to fuel.
Alternatively it can be blended directly with gasoline, diesel and aviation fuel.
Peter Harrison, the company’s chief executive, revealed the breakthrough at a conference at the Institution of Mechanical Engineers in London this week.
‘We are converting renewable electricity into a more versatile, usable and storable form of energy, namely liquid transport fuels,’ he told the Independent.
of 2014, provided we can get the funding going, we can be producing petrol using renewable energy and doing it on a commercial basis.’
Extracting carbon dioxide from air - effectively removing the principal industrial greenhouse gas from the atmosphere - has been described as the ‘holy grail’ of the emerging green economy.
However, recycling that extracted carbon dioxide into fuel usable in existing engines has the potential to transform the world’s environmental and economic landscape.
Mr Harrison said he planned to be producing petrol on a commercial basis using renewable energy by the end of 2014. Within the next 15 years the company is aiming for a refinery-scale operation, he said.
He added: ‘You have the potential to change the economics of a country if you can make your own fuel.’
AFS already has the backing of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers. Tim Fox, the Institution’s head of energy and the environment, said: ‘It sounds too good to be true, but it is true.’
Mr Fox said AFS’s small pilot plant, which he had visited, used well-known principles with the innovation being that they have made it happen as a process.
‘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,’ he added.
While the company claims to have used carbon dioxide extracted directly from the air in their reaction, it is mainly using industrial sources of the gas until it is able to improve the performance of ‘carbon capture.’
As yet the process is considered too expensive to be commercially viable, with the extraction of one ton of carbon dioxide costing as much as £400.
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