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Forum Post: Fuel from CO2 is now a reality

Posted 5 years ago on Oct. 20, 2012, 12:03 p.m. EST by Builder (4202)
This content is user submitted and not an official statement

Air Fuel Synthesis Running on fresh air: British firm makes petrol out of carbon dioxide and water vapour

Drivers could soon be filling up with petrol made from thin air.

The breakthrough by British company Air Fuel Synthesis was yesterday hailed as the “Holy Grail” of green energy, as the process of making the fuel also removes carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, helping to reduce global warming.

It could help solve renewable energy problems and creates petrol by using carbon dioxide and water vapour.

The firm has already made five litres with a pilot refinery.

It also plans to make fuel for planes and aims to build a commercial plant within two years.

It will be able to produce a ton of petrol a day, using wind turbines for electricity.

Tim Fox, head of energy at the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, said: “It sounds too good to be true, but it is true. I’ve seen it.”

Peter Harrison, AFS chief executive, explained the theory.

He said: “We’ve taken carbon dioxide from air and hydrogen from water and turned these into petrol.

"It looks and smells like petrol but it’s much cleaner and clearer. Our fuel can be used in existing engines.”

The idea could have far-reaching implications for the economy if it can be used on an industrial scale.

It could also solve energy problems in remote island communities which have access to solar, wind or wave energy but nowhere to store it.

It costs up to £400 to capture one ton of carbon dioxide, but the firm in Stockton-on-Tees expects to cut that dramatically.




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[-] 4 points by Renneye (3874) 5 years ago

Great thread Builder! I saw this and was gonna post, but you beat me to it...lol! And you did a darned better job of it than I would have, too! Thanks for doing what you do!

[-] 3 points by hchc (3297) from Tampa, FL 5 years ago

I saw something like this today. Incredible. Im sure big oil will drown it out eventually like everything else. I hope they dont though.

[-] -2 points by Builder (4202) 5 years ago

The pilot program proves the theory, at least.

Big oil's only worry would be getting their hands on it first.

The day it becomes cheaper to make it, than to pump it, no more middle east problems.

[-] 3 points by VQkag2 (16478) 5 years ago

I just read this story. Amazing. Too expensive now. But the large scale plant is planned for completion in 2 years so the numbers might be competitive.

Exciting and promising.

Great post and quick. Well done.

[-] -2 points by Builder (4202) 5 years ago

I woke up in the middle of the night, and couldn't get back to sleep. It's 2.30 am here.

[-] 3 points by VQkag2 (16478) 5 years ago


tech can address so many problems if the big energy corps would get out of the way.

[-] -2 points by Builder (4202) 5 years ago

Yeah, as I said below, will be worth watching. Big energy got a hold of ethanol production here, and convinced everyone that it's bad for the engine.

[-] 2 points by VQkag2 (16478) 5 years ago

I'm a little unsure about ethanol because of it's impact on food production and the energy required to create it but I'm sure big oil has made all efforts to stop buying/burning oil.

[-] 2 points by grapes (5173) 5 years ago

Which by the way has some truth to it because of the polar -OH functional group in ethanol so it collects moisture from ambient air. Sufficient amount of that water will cause rust in the gas tank and perhaps in the engine -- not a good thing. The ethanol also required drying up when it is produced and knowing that corporations love to maximize profits, we can surely count on it being a "half-assed" job. This is NOT a problem if the ethanol is used up relatively fast. It is advisable to run your car well at least every other day to keep it in good working condition - if nothing more than to heat it up to drive away moisture and recirculate the fluids.

[-] -2 points by Builder (4202) 5 years ago

Ethanol is mixed into standard fuel at 10% maximum. It's not very popular at all.

I've been told that it leaves more deposits than 100% petrol. I've been running diesel for decades now, so I'll stick with that. Can use old frying oil, and it still works okay.

[-] 2 points by grapes (5173) 5 years ago

You must be driving a bigger vehicle perhaps for supporting mining operations. Using old frying oil is environmentally more benign if you filter and process it before you use it. Diesel has much higher energy content per unit mass than ethanol so diesel is better for achieving longer driving ranges before filling up again.

[-] -3 points by Builder (4202) 5 years ago

Diesels were designed to run on any kind of combustible oil. Hempseed oil would be the best to burn, because it burns the cleanest, and it also sequesters four times more carbon from the atmosphere than other crops.

[-] 0 points by DKAtoday (33496) from Coon Rapids, MN 5 years ago

This stuff is pretty flammable as well:

Linseed oil - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Linseed_oil Linseed oil, also known as flaxseed oil, is a colorless to yellowish oil obtained from the dried ripe seeds of the flax plant (Linum usitatissimum, Linaceae). The oil ...

Wonder if it would be useful as well?

Though I still believe we have to get away from CO producing fuels ASAP.

[-] -2 points by Builder (4202) 5 years ago

I've used linseed oil for food, and in paint and putty. I guess any seed oil would work, if it's the right price.

The bonus with hemp is that it takes so much CO2 out of the atmosphere, and it has so many other uses. The Russians have been burning this oil for ages, because it burns so cleanly.

[-] 1 points by grapes (5173) 5 years ago

Diesel-burning engines are built to withstand higher temperatures than gasoline-burning engines so they can handle many more kinds of different fuels at higher thermodynamic efficiency. Their drawback was (with fast material science advances recently, this may have already changed) that they tended to be bulkier to be able to handle the higher temperatures and cooling can sometimes be a problem.

There is much that is desirable in a fleet of modernized diesel-burning vehicles if our governments put their feet down hard on environmental pre-conditions for burning diesel (such as reduced particulate and nitrogenous emissions).

[-] -2 points by Builder (4202) 5 years ago

Modern turbo-charged diesels, while still heavy, are incredibly efficient engines. VW and Mercedes have some absolutely wicked-fast diesel machines.

My work ute is only 2.5 litre turbo, but capable of towing 2 tonne breaked load. My last diesel was traded in after it's first million kilometres on the same engine.

[-] 1 points by grapes (5173) 5 years ago

Amazing diesel!

[-] -2 points by Builder (4202) 5 years ago

They took the lead out of fuel, and replaced it with benzine. It's a toss-up as to which is the worse for pollution, but fuel needs a lubricant to prevent escessive engine wear.

Diesels, on the other hand, are using oil of one kind or another, so they will last a lot longer. On the heating thing, I've driven through the Pilbara and the Kimberley in 50 C temperatures, without any overheating issues.

[-] 2 points by grapes (5173) 5 years ago

Benzene is a well-known carcinogen but it should be burned away in engines very completely because it flashes so easily.

It is good to know that with diesel you are oiling your engine with the fuel while you drive. The versatility of the type of fuel is a definite plus as we run out of one fuel or another price-wise.

[-] 0 points by DKAtoday (33496) from Coon Rapids, MN 5 years ago

Hemp is an amazingly useful plant as is flax. Both have great fiber for weaving.

[-] 4 points by shadz66 (19985) 5 years ago

Re. Hemp, excellent point !!! I append a documentary which covers a whole lot of ground. It deals with every historical and contemporary aspect of hemp usage and cultivation (mainly in the U.S.), which turns out to be a lot before it was banned.

This story in particular is interesting, and it points out that the large oil-based industries actually had a key role in the aforementioned ban. Food for thought! The conclusion of the documentary could be that hemp may prove to be a valid alternative to both oil and wood in the future.

sic transit gloria mundi ...

[-] 1 points by DKAtoday (33496) from Coon Rapids, MN 5 years ago


[-] 1 points by DKAtoday (33496) from Coon Rapids, MN 5 years ago

Hey shadz G-Day. {:-])

Just watching now - but if I know you - this documentary will be viral worthy.

[-] -1 points by Builder (4202) 5 years ago

Thanks Shadz. I'll watch it later.

From memory, Dupont ICI pushed hard (bribed the DEA) to demonise hemp, which was replaced by cotton, so they could sell a lot more chemicals to the farmers.

[-] 3 points by Middleaged (5140) 5 years ago

Looks good. I have a little headache and just opened it. Probably will send it to a buddy and read a bit of it tomorrow. Hey we were talking about Double and Triple Entry Accounting.... I'm afraid I didn't explain that the advantage is supposed to be to curtail Fraud. And like with Bitcoin's Triple Entry Accounting it is supposed to be very very hard to have fraud or conterfeit going on ...as well as perhaps be a secure private transaction. I have't tried it yet though.

[-] -2 points by Builder (4202) 5 years ago

Did you see Henry Ford's video showing a car made from hemp plastic? They were belting it with a hammer to show how tough it was. The car ran on hemp too. http://rense.com/general67/FORD.HTM

Ford And Deisel Never Intended Cars To Use Gasoline

Henry Ford's first Model-T was built to run on hemp gasoline and the CAR ITSELF WAS CONSTRUCTED FROM HEMP! On his large estate, Ford was photographed among his hemp fields. The car, 'grown from the soil,' had hemp plastic panels whose impact strength was 10 times stronger than steel; Popular Mechanics, 1941.

[-] 2 points by Nevada1 (5843) 5 years ago


[-] 2 points by Mooks (1985) 5 years ago

Cool article. Hopefully they are able to make this technology cheap enough for it to be in widespread use.


[-] -2 points by Builder (4202) 5 years ago

Thanks for doing the maths.

I mentioned somewhere in this thread about utilizing wind power in locations like southern Australia, which is in the roaring forties. Blows its guts out almost every day of the year, and has a low population base, so nobody would be complaining about the "visual pollution" factor.

That would be for the splitting of water into hydrogen, but the air is very clean down there, so the carbon capture would probably need to take place at another location.

[-] 1 points by MattLHolck (16833) from San Diego, CA 5 years ago

the energy to produce petrol from elements it will be burned back to

would be greater than the energy produced

[-] 1 points by Mooks (1985) 5 years ago

That is most likely true but if that energy is clean and renewable, like wind, and it will make something our cars can run on it will be a plus for the environment because people are going to burn gas in their cars either way.

[-] 1 points by VQkag2 (16478) 5 years ago

And it will be cleaning the air?

[-] 1 points by Mooks (1985) 5 years ago

Well until the petrol that gets made is once again burned. It will likely have a net zero effect on the amount of carbon in the air, but that is still much better than what we have now.

[-] 2 points by VQkag2 (16478) 5 years ago

That's something. I say let's just outlaw the internal combustion engine. See how quick we find new tech solutions.

[-] -2 points by Builder (4202) 5 years ago

I read on another link that the fuel is actually closer to methanol, which is top-fueler racing gas. Burns much cleaner anyway. That gets changed into fuel that will burn better in standard vehicles.

Now all we have to do is get the hempseed oil happening for diesel production, and all these wars over oil will stop happening.

EDIT; here's the other link. The technique involves extracting carbon dioxide from air and hydrogen from water, and combining them in a reactor with a catalyst to make methanol. The methanol is then converted into petrol.

By using renewable energy to power the process, it is possible to create carbon-neutral fuel that can be used in an identical way to standard petrol, scientists behind the technology say.

"It's actually cleaner because it's synthetic," Peter Harrison, chief executive officer of AFS, said in an interview.

"You just make what you need to make in terms of the contents of it, so it doesn't contain what might be seen as pollutants, like sulphur," he said.

The work is part of a two-year project that has so far cost around 1 million pounds ($1.6 million).


[-] 1 points by MattLHolck (16833) from San Diego, CA 5 years ago

petrol as a liquid chemical battery

[-] 1 points by Mooks (1985) 5 years ago

Right, but it is still the best energy source for cars that people want to drive so if this can become economical on a large scale it would be great.

[-] 1 points by MattLHolck (16833) from San Diego, CA 5 years ago

still must produce the energy

[-] 1 points by Mooks (1985) 5 years ago

Well we need our cars, it has to come from some where.

[-] 1 points by MattLHolck (16833) from San Diego, CA 5 years ago

we can drive smaller cars

[-] 1 points by Mooks (1985) 5 years ago

To be blunt, most small cars suck. They are not comfortable and not fun to drive. And also impractical for a lot of families. If you have a wife, a few kids, and a dog you really can't go anywhere without a minivan or an SUV. We have a midsized sedan and an SUV and I really don't think it would be possible to go smaller.

[-] 1 points by VQkag2 (16478) 5 years ago

Well as long as you still have "fun". LOL


[-] 1 points by Mooks (1985) 5 years ago

Not in the SUV obviously. Cars are expensive and we spend a lot of time in them. Might as well be fun to drive.

[-] 2 points by grapes (5173) 5 years ago

The funnest and cheapest thrills driving come from "pocket rocket" motorcycles as MattLHolck had referred to as "smaller cars" (they obey the same old physical law in similar direction) but be FOREWARNED -- you will be the flesh-exoskeleton "protecting" the hunk of metal, not the metal-exoskeleton protecting your flesh. You may very well end up on the road and be severely injured if there is a mishap but the feeling of the wind whooshing past your ears on a sunny day and the pickup cannot be beat.

[-] 1 points by Mooks (1985) 5 years ago

Yeah that much fun scares me haha.

[-] 1 points by grapes (5173) 5 years ago

Good for you. You are very sensible and responsible indeed (with family and dog in tow, that is). We need more socially responsible people like you.

[-] 2 points by VQkag2 (16478) 5 years ago

Yeah fuck breathing. As long as we have fun driving. Woo Hoo!

What is your MPG?

[-] 1 points by grapes (5173) 5 years ago

There are problems with breathing in the cities, too. Due to the proximity of living in the cities, cigarette smoke often wafts into bedrooms. Can you imagine your spouse saying, "Why do you stink so much tonight?"

[-] 2 points by VQkag2 (16478) 5 years ago

In my city the asthma rates are highest near the highways that bring in the commuters from the sub Urban towns.

Maybe we should add a commuter asthma tax for healthcare costs?

[-] 1 points by grapes (5173) 5 years ago

More taxes is not the best way to go although short term it will help change the behaviors of the vehicular commuters. We should find ways of letting the commuters get to where they want to easier without the pollution. We can digitize the transportation of people and use the bandwidth of our transportation networks more efficiently in a way akin to how we deliver eggs in egg cartons. With automated packing of pods with people in them (p-pods) into buses (like packing eggs into an egg carton), we can greatly increase the speed of buses in an automated highway system. After unpacking on the destination side, people can still have some automated mobility with their p-pods at low speeds.

Nowadays many people work with information rather than physical things so large number of them can telecommute. We simply have to fire enough managers who are simply there to track facetime and protect their turfs so that more people can telecommute to reduce pollution. We should however enforce labor laws digitally online vigorously so that employers do not barge into the treasure trove of uncompensated labor.

[-] 2 points by VQkag2 (16478) 5 years ago

So you think we should fire people and not raise taxes?

Hmmm? Sounds like republican dogma to me. I say tax the polluters & the rich, & rehire the million state workers state repub leaders fired during this unemployment crises!

[-] 1 points by Mooks (1985) 5 years ago

I get about 26 mpg in my TL, which is pretty good for something with almost 300 HP. It is a good combination of space, fuel efficiency, and power.

[-] 1 points by VQkag2 (16478) 5 years ago

And the other truck you have.?

Have you calculated how many tons of pollution you have created each year.?

Most people need cars 'cause of where they live. Do you live in a suburb?

[-] 2 points by Mooks (1985) 5 years ago

When I drive the SUV I get about 20, my wife somehow only gets about 15. Don't ask me why.

Yes we live in the suburbs and have a few kids and a dog so it is pretty much necessary. I don't like the fact that it guzzles gas but our options are limited. I am hoping the price of the hybrid SUVs continues to drop because we will likely need a new one in a couple years. The Toyota/Lexus SUV hybrids are starting to get very close in price to their non-hybrid counterparts of the same model.

[-] 1 points by VQkag2 (16478) 5 years ago

City living is better for the environment I think. I've NEVER owned a car. can't drive!

I propose we destroy all suburbs, turn the land into farms, & put everyone in city high rises. Mass transit, walkin every where.

That's the ticket.

"It's the only way to by sure"

[-] 1 points by Mooks (1985) 5 years ago

I have a feeling getting rid of the suburbs won't go over well with the 99%.

City living is good for some but others, myself included, don't like big cities. The vast majority of people living in the cities in the US live in dilapidated housing, go to crappy schools, and have to deal with high crime. The causes and cures of this can be debated all day but those are facts. Until it changes, those that can and want to leave the city will continue to do so.

To tell you the truth, I don't really even like it all that much here. I wanted to live in a more rural area but my wife fell in love with the town. America is a vast area, I don't like that I can see my neighbors house from mine.

[-] 1 points by VQkag2 (16478) 5 years ago

Most people in my city do NOT live in dilapidated housing, go to crappy schools, or deal with high crime.

Your view is slanted because you don't like the city perhaps? In any event living in the city IMHO is better for the environment and for society. When you live amongst diverse groups you become more tolerant.

But you're right if you're saying it probably wouldn't happen. Although my city is repopulating with the children of those who fled the city decades ago, and even though more people live in cities than not, I think too many like the isolation of sub urban & rural living.

I think the people who choose benefit of the safer, quieter, cleaner, spacious sub urban living should just pay for the privilege.

Eventually they will get the message and join the better (cheaper, cleaner, more social) way of life and move to the city.


[-] 1 points by MattLHolck (16833) from San Diego, CA 5 years ago

my little car is great

I moved into a studio and had to get rid of a lot of my junk

[-] -2 points by Builder (4202) 5 years ago

I had a mazda 3 which is a very small five-seater. I loved to drive that car. Was a brick in the corners. And very economical.

[-] 0 points by Builder (4202) 5 years ago

Wind turbines apparently.

Sounds like the process can occur spasmodically, without a problem. The bottom of Australia is in the "roaring forties". Blows its guts out most of the year, in other words.

What we really need from this kind of venture, is a set of plans, or a small mobile unit we can use for ourselves. Will be worth watching to see where the oil barons try to take over this one.

[-] 2 points by Nevada1 (5843) 5 years ago

Yes, the "Oil Baron" thing comes to mind quickly.

[-] -2 points by Builder (4202) 5 years ago

A South Australian company mastered the splitting of water vapour into hydrogen and oxygen years ago. Called it Brown's Gas, and the gas is used in remote area welding. The trouble was, it took more energy to make the gas, than the gas itself could produce.

This method, of pulling CO2 from the atmosphere, is something we all should be getting excited about. I just saw a single paragraph in the middle pages of the newspaper about it.

Really should have been front page, in big bold type, but then it's a Murdoch rag, so what would you expect. LOL

[-] 1 points by grapes (5173) 5 years ago

Do not be excited about pulling CO2 from the atmosphere. It is likely just a gimmick. It makes much more economic sense if they situate their plant next to power stations and use the more concentrated CO2 exhaust stream. Remember hydrogen powered cars and the hydrogen economy? I heard it so many times before in my life that I really start to believe that it may ALWAYS be an economy of the FUTURE! Impure hydrogen can foul the catalysts and they tend to be expensive to replace. More energy to produce hydrogen than the gas could produce is a law of nature so you should not complain about "Brown's gas" being no better. It is justified because burning hydrogen in pure oxygen can reach very high temperature needed by the specialized application of remote area welding.

[-] -2 points by Builder (4202) 5 years ago

And remote area pumping of water and other liquids.

Brown's gas generators are fitted to diesel vehicles as well.

Who's complaining? It's the cost of one of these generators for welding that makes them a poor choice compared to a petrol or diesel generator and stick welder.

[-] 2 points by grapes (5173) 5 years ago

Precisely, there is a niche for everything but the contexts make the big differences. Hence, knowledge and wisdom are always called for.

[-] 0 points by bensdad (8977) 5 years ago

They are looking for investors. WHY ?

check out a movie "The Formula"

[-] 0 points by ericweiss (575) 5 years ago

If this was real, everyone would be begging to invest
I hope it is real ---- but ?