Firm prepares demonstration of hydrocarbon fuels project

A company that claims to be able to produce hydrocarbon fuels from air and electricity is preparing a demonstration project.

Air Fuel Synthesis (AFS) has developed a process it says can capture carbon dioxide and water vapour from the atmosphere and convert them into liquid fuel for use in vehicles.

Once the company has proved the concept, it hopes to commercialise it as a way for companies with vehicle fleets and for communities in remote locations to produce their own fuel using renewable electricity.

The proposed method involves reacting sodium hydroxide with carbon dioxide from the air and electrolysing the resulting sodium carbonate to form pure carbon dioxide. Hydrogen is produced by electrolysing water vapour captured with a dehumidifier.

Tony Marmont, company chairman and a visiting professor at Loughborough University, told The Engineer the hydrogen would then react with the CO2 to produce a hydrocarbon mixture.

‘All the chemists say it won’t [react] but it will,’ he said. ‘All I can say is it will. CO2 is reckoned to be an inert gas but I’m afraid it isn’t.’

Carbon dioxide is known to react with hydrogen at high temperatures and pressures in the presence of a metal catalyst.

AFS says its process only uses around 21.4KWh of electricity to produce one litre of fuel with an energy conversion efficiency of around 45 per cent.

The firm is planning to open a five-litres-a-day pilot plant in Teeside, funded by private investors, before the end of the year. The demonstrator, housed in a 30ft-container, will initially use grid electricity before moving to a site with wind turbines.

‘We are proposing to use renewable energy in a slightly different way from the traditional view of it going into the grid,’ said AFS managing director Peter Harrison.

‘We’re advocating that if we use renewable energy for the manufacturing processes it takes away the use of fossil fuels for producing the same products.’

Marmont said that if the reaction proved too difficult to scale up then the company could convert the carbon dioxide into carbon monoxide, which could more easily be used to produce fuels but would add an extra stage to the process.