A November 20, 2013 news item on Nanowerk features a new technique for creating an alternative fuel developed by researchers at Ben Gurion University of the Negev (BGU) in Israel,
Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU) researchers have developed an innovative process to convert carbon dioxide and hydrogen into a renewable alternative for crude oil, which could transform fuels used in gas and diesel-powered vehicles and jets.
The “green feed” crude oil can be refined into renewable liquid fuels using established technologies and can be transported using existing infrastructure to gas 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.
A November 13, 2013 BGU news release provides more detail,
As opposed to other alternative fuel sources, such as electric cars, which require additional infrastructure, this green feed would merely replace oil as the input for refineries. [Moti] Herskowitz, the incumbent of the Israel Cohen Chair in Chemical Engineering, is also the VP & Dean of R&D at BGU. [sic]
The process is patent pending, “and we are ready to take off,” demonstrate and commercialize it, asserts Herskowitz. Bench experiments have been conducted and scale-up should be relatively simple, he says. …
“It is an extraordinary challenge to convert carbon dioxide and hydrogen to green feed,” he says, “The technology is based on novel specially tailored catalysts and catalytic processes. Well-established, commercially available technology can be directly applied to the process developed at BGU. It is envisaged that the short-term implementation of the process will combine synthetic gas produced from various renewable and alternative sources with carbon dioxide and hydrogen. Since there are no foreseen technological barriers, the new process should become a reality within five to ten years,” he says.
Noting that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has made it clear that one of the national priorities of the State of Israel is to develop alternatives to oil, Herskowitz believes that, “As technological breakthroughs, such as carbon dioxide capture from various sources including air and water splitting, become technologically and economically feasible, this process will become the dominant technology for production of liquid fuels.”
Regarding other alternative fuels, Herskowitz maintains that his invention represents a game-changer. “The liquids that have been used over the past decade are ethanol (alcohol), biodiesel and/or blends of these fuels with conventional fuels, as will continue to be done in the foreseeable future. These alternatives are, however, far from ideal, and 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 (in terms of GHG emission) processes from abundant, low-cost, renewable materials,” he says.
The Blechner Center for Industrial Catalysis and Process Development has a proven track record of commercializing applications from its basic research. It developed the Aleol product line of fine aroma chemical products which Makhteshim-Agan has set up Negev Aroma at Neot Hovav to produce.
The news item on Nanowerk offers a brief description of the technology developed at BGU<
The BGU crude oil process produces hydrogen from water, which is mixed with carbon dioxide captured from external sources and synthetic gas (syngas). This green feed mixture is placed into a reactor that contains a nano-structured solid catalyst, also developed at BGU, to produce an organic liquid and gas.
For anyone who’d like some additional information and an Israeli perspective on this work, there’s a Nov. 19, 2013 article by David Shamah for The Times of Israel (Note: Links have been removed from the excerpt),,
While everyone agrees that alternatives to fossil fuels are needed, currently available alternatives require such a major an adjustment in manufacturing and social infrastructure so as to render the whole project untenable.
Besides, said Professor Moti Herskowitz of Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, even if the world could be convinced to replace internal combustion engines in cars and trucks with engines that run on electricity, methanol, or other gasoline replacements, there remains one major problem. “If you notice, no one ever discusses alternative fuels for jets. No one wants a problem in the air, which makes jet fuel irreplaceable right now,” Herskowitz said.
Considering the fact that over 10% of crude oil is used for jet fuel, it appears that refined oil is going to be around for a long time.
If you can’t beat ‘em, then join ‘em, says Herskowitz. …
“It is envisaged that the short-term implementation of the process will combine synthetic gas produced from various renewable and alternative sources with carbon dioxide and hydrogen,” he [Herskowitz] said at the event. “Since there are no foreseen technological barriers, the new process should become a reality within five to ten years.”
The main issue at this point, said Herskowitz, is developing a cheaper way to extract the hydrogen gas. The technology to do this is well-known, and hydrogen is used to power cars, buses and trucks in many places, but current extraction methods are not cost efficient. The most promising method to produce large quantities of hydrogen at a commercially viable price, said Herskowitz, lies in splitting water (hydrogen and oxygen), extracting the hydrogen component as a gas, and pushing it into the green feed. “We are positive we can do produce hydrogen more cheaply,” Herskowitz said.
Acquiring the carbon dioxide needed for the process, he said, was sadly, very simple, as that pollutant, found in smokestack emissions from refineries, and power, steel and cement plants, is all too common.
Does this method of producing gasoline have a chance against Big Oil? After all, there are plenty of urban legend-type stories about oil companies suppressing methods that claim to turn water into gasoline. …
I recommend reading Shamah’s article for the context he provides about the issues surrounding the use of alternative fuels.