The last hours of ancient sunlight, oil is stored chemical energy from plants and animals from our past. All abundant life on earth derived and continued to derive its energy from the sun! Oil is stored sunlight, and it is finite resource. We will eventually deplete oil resources to the point of making the price of oil skyrocket! It will become more valuable as a chemical feedstock in the future, and only used as a fuel in classical antique cars from our era today and in the near future.
We need to develop technologies that harvest energy sources actively produced in the environment. Capturing CO2 from the atmosphere and converting it to methanol is one way to accomplish this goal.
The work on this technology is being conducted by G.K Sura Prakash at the USC. By bubbling the air through a water based mixture of PEHA with a catalyst, which allows the hydrogen to combine with the Co2 to form methanol via heating, the resulting mixture can be distilled to render the fuel!
Methanol is a super clean burning simple alcohol fuel long used as a super high performance race vehicle fuel. Similar to ethanol, the clean burning methanol fuel gives good charge density to high tuned high compression energy efficient high power output engines.
Vehicles of the future can be designed as poly fuel accepting, where any mixture of gasoline, ethanol and methanol can be added to the fuel tank. The fuel economy and emissions profile will change depending on the fuel mixture. The trick is that all the gaskets and valves and hoses in the vehicle have to be made of slightly more expensive materials to withstand the variable fuel mixtures. This is already actively done in Brazil, where Alcohol and Gas are sold side by side in vehicle that can accept any mixture of the two fuel at any ratio. Vehicles that are FlexFuel can accept ethanol gasoline blends of up to 85% ethanol. Going from Ethanol Gas Flex Fuel to poly fuel technology will be easy for manufacturers of automobiles.
Looking beyond $30 per barrel oil, many fuels like Hydrogen, Ethanol, Methanol and Electricity are part of our clean technology future, where transportation vehicles are poly-fuel accepting of clean burning fuels like ethanol and methanol. These clean fuels cannot compete in a marketplace where cheap gasoline and an oil glut exists. The prices of oil is bottoming out right now, and that means it has no where to go but up. As oil prices climb, the feasibility of these clean fuels becomes a reality.
Methanol to Gasoline MTG
Gas To Liquids GTL
Industrial integrated oil companies Royal Dutch Shell and ExxonMobil perfected GTL and MTG technologies at a commercial scale a long time ago. A host of new companies are working on Iso-Butanol and synthetic high octane gasoline from methanol. This means the very methanol that the USC team hopes to produce from CO2 in the atmosphere can then be used to produce super clean burning synthetic gasoline, or bio-gasoline made from plant based feedstocks like BT corn! The main problem with GTL, MTG, IB and BG is that they are not competitive with conventional gasoline made from $30 per barrel oil! When oil prices double in 2017, the feasibility of these other fuel processes will improve, paving the way for access to clean technology fuel alternatives in 2020!