New technology can produce 'petrol from air'
A small British firm claimed to have developed a revolutionary new technology that can produce petrol using just air and electricity.world Updated: Oct 19, 2012 15:54 IST
A small British firm claimed to have developed a revolutionary new technology that can produce petrol using just air and electricity.
A company in the north of England has developed the "air capture" technology to create synthetic petrol which experts have hailed as a potential "game-changer" in the battle against climate change and a saviour for the world's energy crisis.
The technology, presented to a London engineering conference this week, works by removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, The Telegraph reported.
The 'petrol from air' technology involves taking sodium hydroxide and mixing it with carbon dioxide before 'electrolysing' the sodium carbonate that it produces to form pure carbon dioxide.
Hydrogen is then produced by electrolysing water vapour captured with a dehumidifier.
The company, Air Fuel Syndication, uses the carbon dioxide and hydrogen to produce methanol which in turn is passed through a gasoline fuel reactor, creating petrol.
Company officials claimed to have produced five litres of petrol in less than three months from a small refinery in Stockton-on-Tees, Teesside.
The fuel that is produced can be used in any regular petrol tank and, if renewable energy is used to provide the electricity it could become "completely carbon neutral".
The company hopes to build a large plant, which could produce more than a tonne of petrol every day, within two years and a refinery size operation within the next 15 years.
Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE) officials admitted that while the described technology is "too good to be true but it is true", and said that it could prove to be a "game-changer" in the battle against climate change.
Stephen Tetlow, the IMechE chief executive, hailed the breakthrough as "truly groundbreaking".
"It has the potential to become a great British success story, which opens up a crucial opportunity to reduce carbon emissions," he was quoted as saying by the paper.
"Air capture technology ultimately has the potential to become a game-changer in our quest to avoid dangerous climate change," Dr Tim Fox, the organisation's head of energy and environment, added.
Peter Harrison, the company's 58-year-old chief executive said that he was "excited" about the technology's potential, which "uses renewable energy in a slightly different way".
"People do find it unusual when I tell them what we are working on and realise what it means. It is an opportunity for a technology to make an impact on climate change and make an impact on the energy crisis facing this country and the world, said Mr Harrison, a civil engineer from Darlington, County Durham.
"It looks and smells like petrol but it is much cleaner and we don't have any nasty bits," he said.
First Published: Oct 19, 2012 15:53 IST