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Published on October 19th, 2012 | by Chris Milton


Magical Gas Conjured from Thin Air

October 19th, 2012 by  

Temperatures are rising. Not only are environmentalists getting hot under the collar, but the world is too.

It’s all to do with that nasty carbon dioxide which cars and industrial processes pump out. Surely, there has to be a neat easy and simple solution to take all this nasty carbon dioxide and turn it into fuel?

Well now there is.

Magic green gas car

Magic green gas

Air Fuel Synthesis (AFS) in the UK has developed a system which combines carbon dioxide and water to produce a hydrocarbon base product.  This base product can then be converted into most of the gasoline products we’ve got used to getting from oil.

It’s not that the science is particularly complicated; it’s just that AFS has managed to nail the end-to-end process and use renewable energy to power it.

In essence, it works like this:

Wind turbines produce electricity to power an electrolyser. This splits water into hydrogen and oxygen and the hydrogen is combined with carbon dioxide from the air to make the base hydrocarbon. The hydrocarbon can then be used to produce gas, lubricants, plastics, and all other sorts of goodies.

Furthermore, the gas doesn’t need any special additives and can go straight into today’s cars without engine modifications. No batteries, no hydrogen fuel cells, nothing. Just pump it in like regular gas, from a regular pump.

The company has already built a demonstrator unit at its $1.7m development base which is churning out up to 10 litres of hydrocarbon a day.  Its next aim is to raise the funding to take the project to the next level.

“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,” says AFS CEO Peter Harrison. “We ought to be aiming for a refinery-scale operation within the next 15 years.”

He’s also fully aware of the impact the company’s process could have on an oil-dominated world.

“You have the potential to change the economics of a country if you can make your own fuel,” Harrison continues.  “We’re talking to a number of island communities around the world and other niche markets to help solve their energy problems.”

There’s a whole basketful of if’s and but’s, the most important of which are: 1) whether the scaled up process can run exclusively from renewable energy, and 2) what the cost will be.

That said, this is believed to be the first such end-to-end process anywhere in the world. Not so much “carbon capture and storage,” as carbon capture and reuse.

A holy grail for clean technology if ever there was one, and perhaps the horizon of a post–fossil fuel economy. 
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About the Author

is a seasoned sustainability journalist focusing on business, finance and clean technology. His writing's been carried by a number of highly respected publishers, including The Guardian, The Washington Post and Scientific American. You can follow him on twitter as @britesprite, where he's one of Mashable's top green tweeters and Fast Company's CSR thought leaders. Alternatively you can follow him to the shops... but that would be boring.

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