Air Fuel Synthesis, a company in Stockton-on-Tees, has produced five liters of fuel since August, when it opened a small plant that produces fuel from carbon dioxide and water vapor.
Also, Air Fuel Synthesis wants to produce fuel for the air transport industry in order to allow companies to reduce their carbon footprint.
The company hopes that in the next two years they will be able to build a bigger refinery, producing a ton of fuel per day.
“We’ve taken carbon dioxide from air and hydrogen from water and turned these elements into petrol,” said Peter Harrison, CEO of the company, at a conference hosted by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers.
Peter Harrison told The Independent: “There’s nobody else doing it in this country or indeed overseas as far as we know. It looks and smells like petrol but it’s a much cleaner and clearer product than petrol derived from fossil oil.”
“We don’t have any of the additives and nasty bits found in conventional petrol, and yet our fuel can be used in existing engines,” he continued.
“It means that people could go on to a garage forecourt and put our product into their car without having to install batteries or adapt the vehicle for fuel cells or having hydrogen tanks fitted. It means that the existing infrastructure for transport can be used,” Mr Harrison added.
“It sounds too good to be true, but it is true. They are doing it and I’ve been up there myself and seen it. The innovation is that they have made it happen as a process,” Tim Fox, head of energy and the environment at the Institution of Mechanical Engineers in London, said.
“It’s a small pilot plant capturing air and extracting CO2 from it based on well known principles. It uses well-known and well-established components but what is exciting is that they have put the whole thing together and shown that it can work,” he explained.
The ability to extract carbon dioxide from the air, thus eliminating the greenhouse gas in the atmosphere, is the main objective of nature-friendly technologies.
Carbon dioxide is released into the atmosphere from human burning of fossil fuels such as oil or coals.
The British company takes a step further, using carbon dioxide extracted from the atmosphere to produce a fuel that can be stored, transported and used in existing engines.
Peter Harrison said that this technology has the potential to transform the British economy.
“We think that by the end of 2014, provided we can get the funding going, we can be producing petrol using renewable energy and doing it on a commercial basis,” he said.
“The issue is making sure the UK is in a good place to be able to set up and establish all the manufacturing processes that this technology requires. You have the potential to change the economics of a country if you can make your own fuel,” Harrison added.
At the moment, the gasoline produced by the British company’s technology is expensive, so there’s still a long way until it becomes a widespread solution.
However, experts say that in time the cost of a new technology decreases.
Professor Klaus Lackner of Columbia University in New York offered some examples: “I bought my first CD in the 1980s and it cost $20 but now you can make one for less than 10 cents. The cost of a light bulb has fallen 7,000-fold during the past century.”