Israeli researchers develop revolutionary alternative fuel process

Ben-Gurion University team claims breakthrough in producing liquid fuel from hydrogen and carbon dioxide, predicts commercial viability within a decade

File: A man fills his fuel tank at a gas station. (photo credit: Kobi Gideon/Flash90)
File: A man fills his fuel tank at a gas station. (photo credit: Kobi Gideon/Flash90)

Israeli university researchers say they have discovered a revolutionary method for producing alternative liquid fuel from two of the most common substances on earth, hydrogen and carbon dioxide.

The new process will become the dominant technology by which liquid fuel is produced, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev’s Prof. Moti Herskowitz, the Israel Cohen Chair in Chemical Engineering and VP and dean of R&D, said in a statement, as such techniques as “carbon dioxide capture from various sources including air and water splitting, become technologically and economically feasible.”

The process was developed by Herskowitz, Prof. Miron Landau, Dr. Roxana Vidruk and a team at BGU’s Blechner Center of Industrial Catalysis and Process Development.

The world is in great need of a sustainable alternative fuel source because crude oil has limited availability and turning it into liquid fuel causes significant damage to the atmosphere, while the current alternatives are simply not taking hold. For instance, the United States Energy Information Administration has predicted that that by 2035 electric cars will account for less than 5% of the total sales, according to the statement.

Professor Moti Herskowitz (photo credit: (Ben Gurion University/press release)
Professor Moti Herskowitz (photo credit: courtesy Ben-Gurion University)

The BGU team believes that their new discovery can be the solution because it does not face the same technological roadblocks as electric cars and other alternative fuel options, specifically production and delivery infrastructure. Their “green feed,” made from the two substances, is similar in substance to synthetic crude oil and could be turned into a liquid fuel using the same technology used for converting syncrude and subsequently delivered to gas stations using current infrastructure.

The researchers acknowledge that not all of the technology is in place to make the venture immediately feasible in its ideal form. Specifically, water splitting technology that would make the cost of producing hydrogen competitive with that of natural gas has yet to be developed.

However, they believe that the process could be implemented in stages, “beginning with carbon dioxide, water and natural gas, biomass or bio-gas as the starting products and ultimately evolving into a technology that requires only carbon dioxide derived from the atmosphere and water.”

Herskowitz said he was confident the new technique, which could make use of established and commercially available technology, would become a reality within five to ten years.

Herskowitz unveiled the breakthrough with a presentation at Bloomberg Fuel Choices Summit in Tel Aviv on Wednesday.

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