Turning water and carbon dioxide into crude oil

Turning water and carbon dioxide into crude oil

Researchers at Ben-Gurion University (BGU) of the Negev in Israel report that they have developed a process to convert carbon dioxide and hydrogen into a renewable alternative for crude oil. If they are correct, liquid fuels made from this substitute for crude oil could be in the pipeline within five to ten years, revolutionizing transportation and the battle to reduce emissions in the process, not to mention shaking up the oil market worldwide.

“We can now use zero-cost resources - carbon dioxide, water, energy from the sun - and combine them to get real fuels,” said Prof. Moti Hershkowitz, Israel Cohen chair in chemical engineering and the vice president and dean of research and development at BGU, during a recent presentation about the new renewable fuel process at the Bloomberg Fuel Choices Summit in Tel Aviv. Carbon dioxide and hydrogen are two of the most common elements available on earth. 

“BGU has filed the patents and we are ready to demonstrate and commercialize it,” he noted. “Since there are no foreseen technological barriers, the new process could become a reality within five to ten years.”

According to Hershkowitz, the “green feed” crude oil can be refined into renewable liquid fuels using established technologies and can be transported using existing infrastructure to existing fueling stations. The highly efficient advance is made possible in part using nanomaterials that significantly reduce the amount of energy required in the catalytic process to make the crude oil.

“Ethanol (alcohol), biodiesel and/or blends of these fuels with conventional fuels are far from ideal,” he explained. “There is a pressing need for a game-changing approach to produce alternative, drop-in, liquid transportation fuels by sustainable, technologically viable and environmentally acceptable emissions processes from abundant, low-cost, renewable materials.”

“Ben-Gurion University’s Blechner Center has been at the forefront of alternative fuel research and development, working with major American oil and automotive companies for more than 20 years,” said Doron Krakow, executive vice president, American Associates, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev. “We applaud these new developments and BGU’s focus on giving the world new technologies for more efficient, renewable fuel alternatives.”

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