Two of the world’s most noted businessmen and a famous scientist have come together to dream up a new carbon-neutral fuel.
An industrial estate in a small logging town in Western Canada is the ‘science lab’ for one of the most potentially advanced ideas on earth – extract carbon dioxide (CO2) from the air and convert it into a new fuel capable of driving ship and planes.
The project is the brainchild of Bill Gates, the founder of Microsoft, oil sands magnate Norman Murray Edwards and Harvard physicist David Keith.
If the idea works – and on a mass scale – then the climate change issue could be stopped in its tracks.
That’s why the focus is presently on the non-descript industrial estate in the town of Squamish, British Columbia, where the idea is being tested.
The project involves the capture of air and scientific wizardry involving water electrolysis and fuels synthesis to make a liquid, carbon-neutral synthetic fuel.
Mr Keith, through his company Carbon Engineering (CE), and bankrolled by Gates and Murray, created a prototype plant to extract one tonne of pure CO2 every day for a year.
The company is now working with Greyrock, the California energy company, and directly synthesizing CO2 and hydrogen split from water with clean electricity, and a mixture of petrol and diesel, to create a process called Air to Fuels (A2F).
Geoff Holmes of CE described the process as ‘potentially game-changing technology’ which would offer an “alternative to biofuels and a complement to electric vehicles in the effort to displace fossil fuels from transportation.”
After that the Air to Fuels (A2F) pilot and its feasibility, the next level is to raise finance and commercialize the process using low-carbon electricity.
Mr Holmes commented:
“A2F is the future because it needs 100 times less land and water than biofuels, and can be scaled up and sited anywhere.”
However, two major sticking points remain: reducing costs to rival that of extracting oil and getting nations to set a global carbon price.