British engineers create petrol out of thin air

Hydro-electricity? Fusion? Thermal Depolarization? Do we have any other real alternatives? Including utility scale energy storage.

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Mark
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British engineers create petrol out of thin air

Post by Mark »

Interesting development ?
http://www.edie.net/news/news_story.asp?src=nl&id=23375


A British firm has become the first in the world to demonstrate CO2 air capture technology as a viable industrial project.

Air Fuel Synthesis (AFS), based in Stockton-On-Tees, is creating synthetic petrol using only air and electricity. The technology, which has been developed over the last few years, will be discussed at a conference at the Institution of Mechanical Engineers' (IME) headquarters tomorrow.

The fuel created can be used in any regular petrol tank and, if renewable energy is used to provide the electricity, the process and end product are carbon neutral.

Pioneered by AFS, the process involves air being blown into a tower containing sodium hydroxide which reacts with carbon dioxide in the air, forming sodium carbonate. Electricity is then used to release the carbon dioxide, which is stored.

A dehumidifier is then used to condense water. The water is split into hydrogen and oxygen and the hydrogen is reacted with the carbon dioxide to create Syngas. This is processed to form methanol which is subsequently turned into petrol.

The fuel can either be used as replacement fuel for existing vehicles or can be used to store intermittent 'wrong-time' or stranded 'wrong-place' energy from renewable sources.

The IME claims that this fuel has advantage over biofuels when blended with conventional petrol and point to the motorsport's interest into the technology.

AFS chairman David Still said:

"We are now ready to build the first commercial Air Fuel Synthesis production plant making carbon-neutral petrol. The technology can add to new or existing renewable energy projects, especially where the energy is stranded; where there is a premium for secure liquid fuels for existing vehicles; or for reducing carbon emissions. Demand for specialist high quality low-carbon fuels in motorsports offers a particularly attractive early niche market for investors."

IME head of energy and environment Dr Tim Fox said the technology had the potential to become "a game-changer".

"The beauty of petrol from air is that you are effectively recycling CO2 and avoiding further transport emissions.

"While the major recent research advances have largely been made in the US and Canada, it is hugely encouraging that it is British engineers and entrepreneurs who are taking air capture technology out of the lab and using it to create a product.

"This is particularly poignant given that so much of the world's fossil fuel-based industrial economy of today has its origins in great British engineering innovation from the North East," he said.
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Post by Yves75 »

Not a word on the amount of input energy required and overall energy efficiency of the process of course ...
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PS_RalphW
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Post by PS_RalphW »

But what is the EROEI ? How many resources do you need to build the setup for each KWh output? What is the operating live of the plant? How big is it? Are there any waste products etc?

You can extract uranium from sea water at a nominal net free energy. Just build a nuclear power station and a water filtration plant the size of a small island in the middle of the ocean.
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Post by emordnilap »

We is sceptical.
I experience pleasure and pains, and pursue goals in service of them, so I cannot reasonably deny the right of other sentient agents to do the same - Steven Pinker
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adam2
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Post by adam2 »

We is !
It is certainly possible, but sensible ? or economic?
"Creating petrol out of thin air" is rather misleading, it might be more accurate to say, "making petrol from electricity"

It would not even be very sensible to start with thin air.
The carbon dioxide would be better obtained from an industrial brewery as it would be nearly pure, thereby saving the energy cost of extracting it from the air.
Water is better obtained from a well, rainwater capture, or a water company, rather than extracted at significant energy cost from the air.

Even starting with carbon dioxide and water, I very much doubt that the process would be economic.
Electric railways, trams, trolleybuses or battery electric vehicles, seem more likely ways to utilise electricity for transport.
And if the electricity comes from natural gas, as a lot does, it would seem simpler to use natural gas burning vehicles which are an established technology.
"Installers and owners of emergency diesels must assume that they will have to run for a week or more"
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mobbsey
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Post by mobbsey »

RalphW wrote:But what is the EROEI ?.
:shock: :roll: :tinhat:

That's obvious -- less than one.

Just reduce the theoretical process to its basic components....

You're raising the energy quality of carbon from CO2 and hydrogen (presumably produced by electrolysis?... hence electricity) to form hydrocarbons. Second Law requires that raising energy levels consumes more energy than it returns -- so EROEI must be less than 1.

What's more interesting is that there's no way this would reduce carbon emissions. Fuel production will take carbon from the atmosphere and then return it back to the atmosphere when burnt -- it's theoretically carbon neutral. The electricity supply might be wholly renewable, as is often advertised for these whacky schemes, but unless all renewable energy and associated plant/services were also renewable powered, and all emissions from mineral production for their creation were sequestered, then there will always be an excess of carbon when this technology is employed.

Now funnily enough we already have a technology that can do this far, far more efficiently than this process.... it's called a oilseed plant!

...but the decision in that case is whether the "energy services" we required from cropland be supplied in the form of "machine food" (biofuel oils) or "human food" -- or for that matter cotton, or timber, or hemp, or the other directly useful cropstuffs which can be simply worked into equally useful products instead of using fossil fuelled plastics and metals.

As far as I see it, this just feel-good, don't have to change our ways, "free energy"-type spin fodder for the carbon gullible :twisted:
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Post by biffvernon »

I suppose if the electricity is wind generated the 'thin air' claim has a certain merit.

But not much.
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Post by MisterE »

Regardless of the details I for one will give praise for the lads having a go. Because there are nowhere near enough humans on this planet for my great ideas of populating the cosmos and for that we will need massive new breakthroughs in science. I'd rather see these breakthroughs than watch us get so close but quit and fall back to the stone age - because that my friends is not sustainable and it will result in world war over resources and civil strife.

So yes there may be some BS around this idea but at least they are having a crack at it.

:D
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Post by Little John »

MisterE wrote:Regardless of the details I for one will give praise for the lads having a go. Because there are nowhere near enough humans on this planet for my great ideas of populating the cosmos and for that we will need massive new breakthroughs in science. I'd rather see these breakthroughs than watch us get so close but quit and fall back to the stone age - because that my friends is not sustainable and it will result in world war over resources and civil strife.

So yes there may be some BS around this idea but at least they are having a crack at it.

:D
You've got that the wrong way round. It's not giving up and going back to the stone age that will lead to war over resources. It's the coming war over resources that will lead to the stone age and giving up.

Increased access to energy and other resources = time to imagine and develop new technologies. Take away the resources and, at best, all the other stuff grinds to a halt. At worst, it goes into reverse.
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Post by Catweazle »

mobbsey wrote:As far as I see it, this just feel-good, don't have to change our ways, "free energy"-type spin fodder for the carbon gullible :twisted:
That's the intent, but maybe it has a place in using the excess energy that has to be dumped from nuclear plants at off-peak periods.
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Post by adam2 »

Catweazle wrote:
mobbsey wrote:As far as I see it, this just feel-good, don't have to change our ways, "free energy"-type spin fodder for the carbon gullible :twisted:
That's the intent, but maybe it has a place in using the excess energy that has to be dumped from nuclear plants at off-peak periods.
What excess energy ? even during off peak hours considerable coal and natural gas are being burnt to produce electricity.

The only excess energy results when wind production unexpectedly exceeds demand, and that is only for a few hours a year.
No one is going to build hugely expensive and untried plant that can only be used for a few hours a year.
"Installers and owners of emergency diesels must assume that they will have to run for a week or more"
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Post by mobbsey »

MisterE wrote:Regardless of the details...
Yeah, I'm really sorry, but any proposition which begins, "regardless of the details", is at its core delusional.

It's the details within design which manifest our abstract ideas as solid projects in the real world; and if we deliberately ignore those details because they threaten the ignorant ideologies of those proposing them, the results can be anything but those which are intended....

...in fact, I think present-day ecological and social difficulties are empirical evidence of the manifestations of such ignorant ideologies in the world :evil:
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Post by Catweazle »

adam2 wrote:
Catweazle wrote:
mobbsey wrote:As far as I see it, this just feel-good, don't have to change our ways, "free energy"-type spin fodder for the carbon gullible :twisted:
That's the intent, but maybe it has a place in using the excess energy that has to be dumped from nuclear plants at off-peak periods.
What excess energy ? even during off peak hours considerable coal and natural gas are being burnt to produce electricity.

The only excess energy results when wind production unexpectedly exceeds demand, and that is only for a few hours a year.
No one is going to build hugely expensive and untried plant that can only be used for a few hours a year.
That's because we don't have enough nuclear plants, if we did then we would have excess energy at off-peak periods which could, if this technology works, produce liquid fuels.
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Post by MisterE »

Ah well lets agree to disagree and you guys can keep planning for doomsday. I personally think anyone having a go to solve the energy crisis will always get my ear - beats storing cans and running to the hills. Plus I do not have it the wrong way around. 100% if we don't sort the energy crisis out war will result - the lack of will be the cause even after you slash demand, without more sources it will end in a lack of - end of ;-)
"I'd put my money on the sun and solar energy. What a source of power! I hope we don't have to wait until oil and coal run out before we tackle that." — Thomas Edison, 1931
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adam2
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Post by adam2 »

I do not consider that turning electricity (which is already scarce and expensive) into petrol is in any way "solving the energy crisis"
Especialy when a significant proportion of that electricity is generated from burning natural gas. LNG/CNG vehicles are an established and readily available technology that could be used on a wider scale if required.
"Installers and owners of emergency diesels must assume that they will have to run for a week or more"
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