Turning Water and Carbon into Gasoline in the Holy Land

natural gas

In a development with enormous potential implications for the world’s energy needs, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev researchers have invented a process to make gasoline from water and carbon dioxide.

While if the process can be scaled up to industrial production it could have enormous impact worldwide, its immediate effects would undoubtedly be felt first in Israel, where Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has repeatedly emphasized that developing oil alternatives is a national priority for Israel. The U.S. government’s Energy Information Administration country analysis report on Israel notes, “[As] Israel’s total primary energy demand is significantly higher than its total primary energy production, the country relies heavily on imports to meet its growing energy needs.”

The process was developed at BGU’s Blechner Center of Industrial Catalysis and Process Development by a research team including Professors Moti Herskowitz, Miron Landau, and Dr. Roxana Vidru. The team received partial funding from the Israel Strategic Alternative Energy Foundation.

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Professor Herskowitz, Israel Cohen Chair in Chemical Engineering and the VP and Dean at BGU, announced the revolutionary breakthrough at the Bloomberg Fuel Choices Summit in Tel Aviv on 13 November, telling his audience, “It is an extraordinary challenge to convert carbon dioxide and hydrogen to green feed. 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 Ben Gurion University. 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. The liquids that have been used over the past decade are ethanol, 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.” Regarding commercialization of the process Herskowitz said, “The process is patent pending, and we are ready to take off, demonstrate and commercialize it.”

The BGU crude oil process produces hydrogen from water, which is subsequently mixed with carbon dioxide and synthetic gas, which is then passed through a special reactor to create a “green feed” made up of liquid and gas. This would subsequently be used as raw feedstock for future refineries, replacing oil, as the feedstock, that according to Herskowitz will be used to produce gasoline, jet fuel, and diesel.

What is significant about the discovery is its use of zero-cost resources — carbon dioxide, water, and solar energy being combined to produce fuel. Herskowitz notes, “Ethanol, biodiesel and/or blends of these fuels with conventional fuels are far from ideal. 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.”

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Founded in 1995, BGU’s Blechner Center for Industrial Catalysis and Process Development receives major funding from a number of sources that include the Israeli government, science foundations, industrial partners, and individual donors, which has allowed researchers at the Blechner Center to develop a number of technological breakthroughs, including a process for converting vegetable and algae oils to advanced green diesel and jet fuels, as well as a technology for producing zero-sulfur diesel.

The major issue now facing the BGU Blechner Center for Industrial Catalysis and Process Development team is to secure additional funding to move their research from the laboratory to a commercial industrial scale production prototype. Given the immense potential of the breakthrough, there will most likely be a number of investment firms and individuals willing to assist the BGU team in making this transition.

Originally written for OilPrice.com, a website that focuses on news and analysis on topics of alternative energy, geopolitics, and oil and gas. OilPrice.com is written for an educated audience that includes investors, fund managers, resource bankers, traders, and energy market professionals around the world.

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