British engineers at Air Fuel Synthesis have succeeded in using an innovative new “air capture” technology to remove carbon dioxide greenhouse emissions from the air and transform them into synthetic gasoline.
The two-year experimental project mixes sodium hydroxide with carbon dioxide before electrolyzing the sodium carbonate that it produces to form pure carbon dioxide. Hydrogen is then produced by also electrolyzing water vapor captured with a dehumidifier. The carbon dioxide and hydrogen then produce methanol, which is passed through a gasoline fuel reactor to create the fuel. The prototype minirefinery, in Stockton-on-Tees, in Teesside, produced five liters of gas in less than three months. A larger plant might produce more than a ton of gasoline every day, and a refinery-sized operation is envisioned within 15 years.
The fuel can be used in any regular application and if renewable energy were used to provide the electricity, the system would be completely carbon neutral. While the technology has the backing of Britain’s Institution of Mechanical Engineers and private philanthropists, it has yet to capture the interest of major oil companies.