Here's a potentially really cool discovery that combines air and water, and it ain't Perrier.

UK-based Air Fuel Synthesis (AFS) says it has found a way for those two basic elements to be combined to make fuel. In a nutshell, the company electrolyzes water to produce hydrogen, which is combined with carbon dioxide via a fuel reactor to make a fuel-type liquid. And that fuel can be blended with gas, diesel or jet fuel. Describing this in more detail would require finding our 10th grade chemistry books (it's complicated), but the company says it's making as many as 10 liters of liquid fuel a day from a small demonstration setup.

AFS is putting some money into the project – about 1 million British pounds ($1.6 million) during the past two years, according to a BBC video that can be seen below – to bring the technology to commercial scale. You can also read AFS' more scientific explanation below. Don't worry, you won't be tested.



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Petrol from air an update

After the positive coverage following the recent IMechE CO2 air capture conference and the features on the front page of the Independent we have been inundated here at AFS with requests for media interviews and comments from social media forums. We have seen coverage across the world from leading national media including specialist scientific and engineering journals.

The BBC visited us today up at our demonstration plant in Teeside to talk about the innovative new alternative to fossil fuels, watch the interview below.

Too good to be true?

For some people, reading some of the more lurid reports perhaps, the process seems just too good to be true. In fact, of course, we are serious scientists, engineers and business people at AFS, our sound engineering processes have been supported by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE) and we have a solid business proposition.

Commercially viable

The IMechE recognise that our approach is a great example of pioneering British innovation around green, clean technology. Our business was also recognised during the recent Cleantech Investor Future Transport Challenge event, as innovative, practical and investable. A panel of distinguished investors which included: Dr Dominic Emery - Chief Development Officer for BP Alternative Energy; and Andreas Schamel; Ford's Chief Engineer Powertrain Research & Advanced Engineering Europe found that AFS was a clear winner. The panel members enquired about the building of commercial plants and how the price of fossil oil affects the AFS carbon neutral synthetic alternative. They learned that thanks to its successful demonstrator programme, AFS is now ready to build a commercial plant producing at levels of 1-tonne a day producing specialist fuels initially for example in top-end motorsport applications.

Independent engineering analysis conducted for AFS shows that a 1-tonne a day production plant taking carbon from a point source such as a brewery, distillery or aerobic digestor (which can be built within 18-24 months of funding) can be competitive with equivalent specialist fossil fuels and commercially viable.

What's more an AFS plant will be non-polluting and provide a secure supply of fuel from a containerised unit located wherever required.

Energy consumption in production

Many people have raised the issue of how much energy the AFS process uses? As with any technology there is always a loss in any energy conversion. For example coal-fired power stations are only 30% efficient. However, at AFS our energy efficiency is better than that and will continue to improve as we build larger plants, and, of course we do not contribute to carbon-induced global warming.

The AFS technology allows us to capture surplus electrical energy, storing it in a way that is better and more useful than batteries. We intend to work with wind farms to capture excess energy that is not able to be used by the grid.

In summary,

The AFS process is technically proven and has been endorsed by credible scientists and engineers in the field. Our technology provides the potential for thousands of jobs and an economic boost. Only investment in new-green economy businesses, such as ours, will address the big issues of sustainable job creation, financial instability, carbon-induced climate change and energy security.


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 44 Comments
      Dave
      • 2 Years Ago
      Stone Soup
      EZEE
      • 2 Years Ago
      As the resident rocket scientist, I will confirm the various concerns listed here. Amount of electricity required would be the chief issue. It isn't that it can't be done, obviously it can, but is the cost and energy required practical?
      DaveMart
      • 2 Years Ago
      To give a better feel for what the figures for uranium costs mean the average San Diego three person household uses around 6,000 kwh per year: http://www.physics.uci.edu/~silverma/actions/HouseholdEnergy.html So the raw uranium if all that was from nuclear would cost around $18. They are not burning loads of oil, gas and coal to produce that uranium, or it would cost way more.
      DaveMart
      • 2 Years Ago
      Running a Toyota FCEV wholly on hydrogen produced from electrolysis from nuclear power instead of the natural gas it actually uses for 12,000 miles a year would cost around $36 in raw uranium. Fast breeders, reprocessing etc would knock that down to around $0.50 or so - for the year. We are not going to run out of energy anytime soon - at least if we invest a little of it in burning the Luddites trying to throw people into fuel poverty!
      Ford Future
      • 2 Years Ago
      First of all you seem to never take into account the negative externalities of any fuel. - The problem with nuclear, is the Fukashima problem. Any catastrophic failure that drowns the profit you've made with 1000X worse cost of environmental, health and economic damage. - The nuclear waste what's it doing now? It's sitting outside the reactor in barrels on the roof waiting to be transported. - The nuclear industry is underfunding the security of the plants. - There is no processing of the waste currently going on. - Texas is building a waste repository right next to the Ogallala Aquifer. What could go wrong? But, I do know that nuclear is carbon neutral after 10 years.
      DaveMart
      • 2 Years Ago
      I'm actually 'hating' on people purporting to provide a mathematical comparison, and being too dim or prejudiced to make both sides of the equation equal. If you take into account energy losses in creating the fuel for one source, you do it for the other too. The thoughts of anyone regarding why EV's, or anything else, are 'better' on the basis of such gross error are not worth having.
      goodoldgorr
      • 2 Years Ago
      Im sure there is something to do with co2 water and electricity. They will be better to use grid electricity instead of unstable windmills or solar panels. If all the process is started with constant flow and temparature, then an inconstant flow of electricity coming from windmilsl or solar can mess the whole process. The trick is to start the machineries and operate them constantly for hours and hours for a big production rate. Im interrested to buy. In the future, these machines can be installed near co2 chineys to clean the air and obtain high concentration of co2. Also they can do the hydrogen in advance and stock it, so that way the operation of the whole reaction can be better managed. This is a complicated task but it can be studied and the efficiency will increase.
        Ford Future
        • 2 Years Ago
        @goodoldgorr
        GOG is spouting the "inconsistency" of wind power, which has been proven only right 1 one windmill. Typical installations have hundreds spread over different geographic areas, for a utility, which gives wind a baseline like any energy source.
        mycommentemail
        • 2 Years Ago
        @goodoldgorr
        Stupid commenting system. I tried to vote you up, but the commenting system ate it. At any rate, it is so seldom that I want to vote one of your comments up I decided I need to make sure it gets recorded somehow. As mentioned, this is not an energy source, but a way to store energy in a format that is both potentially carbon neutral (depending on the source of electricity - see goodoldgorr's comment above about how that could work) and easily used in our current infrastructure.
      ss1591
      • 2 Years Ago
      If this company can us solar energy it will allow some transportation a way to expand the fuel they use. Those of you who say just charge a battery and skip the middleman are missing engines like Jets, and large trucks. Electric power just won't work for some industries, requiring liquid fuels for the foreseeable future.
        Ford Future
        • 2 Years Ago
        @ss1591
        The problem with solar is they'll make more money selling solar into the electric grid at peak hours. Wind, on the other hand, could have some excess surplus at night.
      Richard Lam
      • 2 Years Ago
      The biggest problem already is that they're using electrolysis to generate hydrogen. To create 1 kG of hydrogen (about the same as 1 gallon of gas) you need 60-70 kWh of electricity which is enough to drive a Tesla 200 miles already! That's why EV's are just better!
        DaveMart
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Richard Lam
        And to generate 65kwh of electricity at the average efficiency of the US grid takes 195kwh-worth of power! Do at least try to compare apples with apples.
      onyerleft
      • 2 Years Ago
      Synthetic fuels have been made from air and water for at least 70 years. Until AFS can demonstrate how they can improve on Fischer-Tropsch - a complex, expensive process which is practical only in areas where oil is scarce - this is a non-story. Nowadays, we can take nuclear/renewables and charge a battery with it, cutting out the middlemen and improving efficiency by at least 50%.
      Ford Future
      • 2 Years Ago
      To produce 3 gallons of gas from tar sand requires the energy equivalent of 1 gallon of energy, plus a massive need for clean water.
      Ford Future
      • 2 Years Ago
      http://www.eia.gov/tools/faqs/faq.cfm?id=105&t=3 This site says the average transmission losses are 7%. Looks like your number is way off.
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