Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Making Petroleum from Thin Air

A serious science and environmental post, would you believe it?

It's not April.  I checked my calendar and everything.  So imagine my surprise when I read this.  

It looks like the Brits have found a way of making "clean" pure petroleum out of thin air.  It sounds  was to good to be true.  

What are the ingredients?  Well air for a start, or the carbon it in anyway.  Plus sodium hydroxide (lye or caustic soda), hydrogen and electricity.

Caustic soda can be made from seawater using electricity, but there are lots of other ways to make it.  Hydrogen can be made from water using electricity. 

The carbon comes from CO2 in the air, so not only can they get the petroleum from the air, they are also scrubbing CO2 out of the air at the same time.....   So get this, every gallon of carbon dioxide from "air fuel" burned is offset by the carbon dioxide used to make it.  

If the electricity used to make it comes from "renewable resources" or nuclear then it is absolutely carbon neutral.  So much greener than bio fuel as it does not waste valuable land that could be used to grow food.  

If you think about it the technology really makes all vehicles electric powered with none of the disadvantages. 

Another big bonus is fuel independence and an assured domestically produced supply.  Maybe a reduced need for oil and reduced risk from oil spills.  Maybe cheap fuel at stable prices?

The developers say a larger (test?) plant could produce more than a metric ton of petroleum a day, within two years.  With funding they think refinery scale operations could be running inside of 15 years.  

Shouldn't some of the green tax money and "Global warming" funding be switched to this immediately?  If CO2 really does cause global warming then this technology would be doing the world a service even if it was only used to sequester the petroleum.  It could stop global warming in its tracks and even reverse it. 

Putting my cynical hard hat on.  So that's the Climate change lobby/industry gravy train and the oil companies threatened by it.  Two good reason for it not to happen.  With the lobbying power they have I expect it will be made illegal.  

But if CO2 isn't causing global warming then it is a way for the climate change industry to put off everyone finding out for the longest time and keep the dollars flowing and the oil industry would be better off changing horses and getting on board with it.......


jmb said...

Mmm. Well it sounds a spectacular achievement on the one hand but it does seem rely heavily? on electricity so is it cost effective for a start? Here we have hydro power but in California they burn natural gas to make electricity.

I am sure we shall hear further.

Moggsy said...

Nuclear seems like the best solution. The French adopted it big time. Th UK better do someting prctical soon or the lights will be going out and the wind farms wont save them.

Lee said...

I've already got my cynical hat on, jmb.

jams o donnell said...

It's an interesting idea but so are they have produced just over a gallon of petrol. I suppose time will tell

Don QuiScottie said...

But remember (as I already said at jams place) we already have things that can be used to make petroleum from carbon dioxide in the air and water - we call them plants, and the process photosynthesis, which is powered by the abundant energy flowing from the sun. This new chemistry is interesting but may be a complicated way of doing what we can already do, although people do complain about plants being used to make fuel rather than food. But if it is an efficient way then it would seem the sensible way.

Moggsy said...

Thank you all for your comments.

Lee, In this day and age with the greater good taking second place to agendas and lobbyists we all need our cynical hats I guess.

Jams, yes the question is can they produce on a larger scale? They say they can. And just as important will they be allowed to. Like I said there are lots of conflicting and powerful interests in the picture.

Don, Yes I agree plants are able to lock up CO2, probably they helped do it in the first place. Tho I think I read the early atmosphere was also altered by huge chemical reactions laying down things like limestone.

If food were not such an issue then boifuel might be better, but I read that lots of agricultural land is being turned over to produce bifuel mass where it reduces needed food production. Also if it works this technology can be used where there is no arable land.

Maybe like in a desert where there is plenty of sun for a solar arrays? I expect It would need lots of power capacity. If it did work maybe "they" would stop taxing airtravel and demonising dirvers.