Air Fuel Synthesis: How to make fuel from thin air

Creating carbon neutral, sustainable fuel from renewable electricity

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Web http://www.airfuelsynthesis.com/
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Concept

About the project Edit

You have this year produced your first engine fuel made from air. What fuels do you produce?
The original intention was to produce aviation fuel by reacting carbon dioxide extracted from the air with hydrogen extracted from water (using renewable electricity) to make hydrocarbons. The two fuels I see us making initially are methanol and gasoline. Methanol has lots of applications, but our main thrust is to convert that methanol into gasoline.

In New Zealand, in the 1990s, Mobil Corp. made synthetic gasoline from methanol. We have our own version of that process. The difference is that they used natural gas while we are using wind energy, recovered CO2, and electrolytic hydrogen.

How do you capture CO2 from the air?
We use a “scrubbing column”—a large tower containing alkali. CO2 and water produce a weak acid which reacts with the alkali creating bicarbonate which you then process from which to recover the carbon dioxide. This is done thermally by heating it up to 100 degrees plus, under slight pressure.

How much air do you need to create a liter of fuel?
An awful lot. The concentration of CO2 in air is only about 0.035 percent, so to get sufficient kilograms of CO2 you have to process about 4000 meters cubed of air.

That is why we have mostly been using commercial CO2 from bottles, mainly by-products of bioethanol, ammonia or hydrogen plants. While we can capture CO2 from air, it is difficult and more concentrated sources of CO2 are more economically viable at the moment.

How does your technology make fuel?
We mix and compress the carbon dioxide and hydrogen and pass the gas mix over a commercial catalyst which partially converts it into methanol. The CO2/H2 mix not converted is recycled back into the reactor. The product we get is about half methanol and half water. We separate that so we have a purified methanol stream for our gasoline reactor.

In the gasoline reactor we feed the methanol through a heat exchanger and then a conversion reactor to make hydrocarbons and water. We get approximately 10 parts gasoline for every 30 parts methanol.

How much CO2 do you need to make a liter of fuel?
We need 3.9 kg of CO2 to make one kilogram or about 3.1 kg to make one liter of gasoline. A typical ammonia plant would make well over 1,000 tons of CO2 per day. So a large gasoline reactor would probably use all the CO2 from a very large ammonia plant.

Would you need to locate production plants near large water sources?
On a small scale, probably not, but if we are talking about refinery scale, it would be useful to have access to large amounts of water. Equally important is being close to large amounts of CO2.

What scale are you working at now?
We have a one-liter reactor for methanol, capable of making about one kilogram an hour. The gasoline reactor should give us about half that amount although in practice it is a little less at the moment.

We are making methanol and gasoline every day and are trying to advance them for evaluation. We consider the technology as proven, and so now we are looking at building a ton-a-day gasoline unit. I would like to see us have something to show on the ground in two years, although it depends entirely on funding. We need external investors and are applying for UK government grants.

When will you have a vehicle running on your fuel?
We are hoping to do something with a small vehicle. Our goal for this year is to have some motorized transport running entirely on our fuel.

In what ways is this project unique and creative? Edit

You have this year produced your first engine fuel made from air. What fuels do you produce?

The original intention was to produce aviation fuel by reacting carbon dioxide extracted from the air with hydrogen extracted from water (using renewable electricity) to make hydrocarbons. The two fuels I see us making initially are methanol and gasoline. Methanol has lots of applications but our main thrust is to convert that methanol into gasoline.

In New Zealand, in the 1990s, Mobil Corp. made synthetic gasoline from methanol. We have our own version of that process. The difference is that they used natural gas while we are using wind energy, recovered CO2, and electrolytic hydrogen.

What is the social value of this project? Edit

The social value is creating carbon neutral, sustainable fuel from renewable electricity.

How much power and water do you need to make a liter of fuel?

We need about 30 kilowatts of power to make one kilogram of gasoline. The main energy cost is the cost of making the hydrogen through electrolysis of water. Most hydrogen is manufactured by steam reforming fossil fuels, but our objective is to use sustainable energy, mainly wind and perhaps solar.

To make a ton of gasoline we would need about four and a half tons of water. However, all the water used to make the hydrogen is regenerated during methanol and gasoline synthesis, and some could be recycled.

So who will be your first customers?

A lot of gasoline users have a requirement for sustainable fuel elements in their fuel. Motor racing is one example. Conventionally they use bio-ethanol. The advantage of using our gasoline is it has a higher energy density and it doesn’t take up land that could be used for food.

Some of the fleet markets are being required to reduce their carbon emissions. We argue that our fuel is CO2 neutral and on that basis that could be blended directly into existing fuels to help people meet targets.

What is the potential of this project to expand and develop? Edit

What’s your long-term vision? Is this a mass market or niche proposition?

It depends on scale. Up to a ton day we are definitely looking at a niche market but there is no technical reason why this couldn’t be done at a very large scale, hundreds or even thousands of tons a day. Our long-term vision would be refinery scale which would be several hundreds of tons a day.

What was the triggering factor of this project? Edit

You have this year produced your first engine fuel made from air. What fuels do you produce?

The original intention was to produce aviation fuel by reacting carbon dioxide extracted from the air with hydrogen extracted from water (using renewable electricity) to make hydrocarbons. The two fuels I see us making initially are methanol and gasoline. Methanol has lots of applications but our main thrust is to convert that methanol into gasoline.

In New Zealand, in the 1990s, Mobil Corp. made synthetic gasoline from methanol. We have our own version of that process. The difference is that they used natural gas while we are using wind energy, recovered CO2, and electrolytic hydrogen.

What is the business model of this project? Edit

Air Fuel Synthesis business plan for creating commercially viable, sustainable fuels

AFS has a robust business plan, drawing on the deep practical industry experience of its management team. The plan includes early cashflow returns by focusing on high-spec motorsports fuels and point sources of CO2 . In this niche initial market we can provide fuels and blends at prices competitive with fossil fuels but with the massive benefits of carbon-neutrality, secure, consistent quality and price-predictability. This niche market facilitates staged development of the business with the opportunity to scale up and accelerate as governments and corporations realise that practical alternatives for fossil fuels are required urgently.

AIR FUEL SYNTHESIS STRATEGIC OBJECTIVES

The AFS business plan is built around:

• Developing cashflow as early as possible – via niche markets and, in particular, small-scale commercial plants producing carbon-neutral fuel for specialist motorsports applications.
• Facilitating integrated renewable energy projects with partners at a variety of scales, ultimately up to and including refinery scale (1,000+ tonnes of fuel a day).
• Licensing renewable fuel technology, providing operations and maintenance services, and systems to optimise the use of renewable energies.
• Ultimately establishing high volume manufacturing supply chains for hydrogen electrolysis, CO2 release electrolysis, renewable energy technology, and fuel conversion technologies.

AFS is:
• Delivering these objectives using the best financial models available to monitor progress and attract investment to further develop our sustainable fuel capabilities.
• Developing containerised commercially viable fuel production plants to deliver carbon-neutral fuels which can meet demand, especially in motorsports markets.
• Developing partnerships with a range of organizations to generate new renewable products into existing and new markets.
• Developing new sustainable technologies leading to new commercial products.

View our proposed timetable for taking AFS sustainable fuels to market.

While the position on incentives for renewable energy is unclear, all the evidence is that oil prices will continue the overall rising trend they have experienced since global Peak Oil was reached in the mid 2000s, that energy markets will suffer further supply constraints and price shocks and that the relative cost of renewable electricity production will fall. Niche markets provide clear initial opportunities for the development of initial commercial AFS plants producing low/zero carbon “electrofuels” for specialist applications.

Contact the team at AFS at http://www.airfuelsynthesis.com/contact-us.html to discuss any element of our business plan, involvement in our quest to create a viable sustainable fuel for future generations, view our demonstrator plant or learn more about Air Fuel Synthesis and our plans for renewable liquid fuels.


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