A small company in the north of England has developed the “air capture” technology to create synthetic petrol using only air and electricity. Experts last night hailed the astonishing breakthrough 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, removes carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. 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, then uses the carbon dioxide and hydrogen to produce methanol which in turn is passed through a gasoline fuel reactor, creating petrol.
Company officials say they had 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 £1.1m project, in development for the past two years, is being funded by a group of unnamed philanthropists who believe the technology could prove to be a lucrative way of creating renewable energy.
While the technology has the backing of Britain’s Institution of Mechanical Engineers, it has yet to capture the interest of major oil companies.
But company executives hope 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.
Tonight Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE) officials admitted that while the described the technology as being “too good to be true but it is true”, it could prove to be a “game-changer” in the battle against climate change.