Sunfire, Audi en route to synthetic fuel of future

Sunfire, Audi en route to synthetic fuel of future
Minister of Research, Prof. Dr. Johanna Wanka, and Reiner Mangold, Head of Sustainable Product Development at AUDI AG, refueled the Minister’s official car - a Audi A8 3.0 TDI clean diesel quattro - with the first five liters of Audi e-diesel.

How are scientific minds doing in coming up with a synthetic fuel as a viable alternative to petroleum? For some engineers, this is a long-held dream they refuse to dismiss. A Dresden-based company, sunfire, is confident they have reached a real goal.

The company uses a "green" approach to produce a liquid fuel. Namely, sunfire has succeeded in producing synthetic diesel from air, water and "green" electrical energy, and "an independent laboratory confirmed that the outstanding characteristics of the fuel are superior to the properties of fossil fuel." The synthetic sunfire diesel is particularly eco-friendly. As sunfire CTO Christian von Olshausen said, "The engine runs quieter and fewer pollutants are being created." The fuel is promoted as superior partly because the properties are such that the engine runs smoothly with fewer emissions. The fuel is free from sulfur and aromatic hydrocarbons,

According to project partner Audi, which is sunfire's partner in the automotive sector, .the efficiency of the overall process – from renewable power to liquid hydrocarbon – is very high at around 70 percent.

What are the materials used for the fuel? Audi said the only raw materials needed are water and carbon dioxide. The process enables from the atmosphere to be turned into a resource. Audi said a portion of the CO2 needed is extracted from the ambient air through direct air capturing, a technology of Audi's Zurich-based partner Climeworks. Audi's project partner and plant operator, sunfire, operates according to the power‑to‑liquid (PtL) principle, producing a .

The pilot plant being operated by sunfire has started producing its first batches of what Audi calls "e-diesel" and Audi said the plant is set to produce over 3,000 liters of Audi e-diesel over the coming months.

The steps used in making the were discussed in the announcement by Audi: First, water heated up to form steam is broken down into hydrogen and oxygen by means of high-temperature electrolysis. The process involves a temperature in excess of 800 degrees Celsius, and heat recovery makes the technique especially efficient. Also, high-temperature electrolysis can be used dynamically, said Audi, to stabilize the grid when production of green power peaks.

The hydrogen reacts with the CO2 in synthesis reactors, again under pressure and at high temperature. The reaction product is a liquid made from long chain hydrocarbon compounds, or "blue crude" which can be refined to yield the Audi e-diesel.

Douglas Perry in The Oregonian picked up on the implications this may have for electric cars and indeed pollution-free transportation. "The electric car," he wrote, "was supposed to be the answer, but while its environmental impact is certainly much smaller than the gas-powered car, it still produces a fair amount of pollution. That is, it's fueled by the electrical grid, which is often driven by coal and other 'dirty' fuels." But, he added, "the necessary technological breakthrough for cars may finally have happened."

Similarly, Joe Lorio in Car and Driver stated that "Synthesized replacements for could be the start of a whole new chapter in the life of internal-combustion propulsion. A car that runs on water has been the green dream for ages, and this appears to be a big step closer to reality."


Explore further

Carbon dioxide reduction linked with hydrogen energy production

© 2015 Tech Xplore

Citation: Sunfire, Audi en route to synthetic fuel of future (2015, April 28) retrieved 23 January 2019 from https://techxplore.com/news/2015-04-sunfire-audi-en-route-synthetic.html
This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only.
1001 shares

Feedback to editors

User comments

Apr 28, 2015
It'll be interesting to see how well it scales up to serious production: the UK alone uses about 25 billion litres of diesel a year

Apr 28, 2015
3000 literes over several months...There's a lot of optimization to do before this is cost competitive.

In any case a combustion fuel still produces NOx, so this is, if anything, just a short-term fix for personal transport (might be viable for freight transport where energy per weight is more important)

Apr 28, 2015
If the 70% efficiency figure is correct this is a HUGE breakthrough. Personally, I do not see how it could be possible. Just trying to get Co2 out of the atmosphere should take more power than that. Anyhow if this article is true then there is finally an efficient way to store renewable power.

cjn
Apr 28, 2015
antialias:
In any case a combustion fuel still produces NOx..


My first thought too -no sulfur is a bonus though.. BUT, if you can produce this domestically, it might be a great intermediate to hydrogen. I wonder how this scales, and if it can be improved by increasing the concentration of CO2 above atmospheric.

Apr 28, 2015
Well if they locate the plant near a fossil fired power plant perhaps they could use the exhaust gasses.

Apr 28, 2015
So few breakthroughs like this seem to turn into viable products. If this one does, then it would be one of the greatest inventions in history. There are plenty of companies and countries that will not like to see this happen.

Apr 28, 2015
"There are plenty of companies and countries that will not like to see this happen."

That might be true but the realities of the market place will always allow viable technologies to dominate.

Apr 28, 2015
There is an enormous area of open sea with intense, high duty cycle sunlight far from coastlines to which transmission is problematic. If massive equatorial islands of this technology could do their own distillation of e-diesel from the raw material they create it could just accumulate in big tubs until time to tow trains of them to distribution facilities on continental land. The NIMBY considerations vanish and no one owns the areas on top of which it would be built. The importance of efficiency goes down with the ability to scale and the scaling potential at sea is effectively unlimited. They could even be made mostly self reproducing at which point efficiency considerations nearly vanish too.

This has clear potential to be a savior technology. One wonders how much of the Mediterranean would be required to satisfy all of Europe and Eurasia leaving fossil deposits to be raw material instead of fuel.

Apr 28, 2015
Not to mention the geopolitical consequences. :-)

Apr 29, 2015
Not to mention the geopolitical consequences. :-)

Yes this would be the main benefit for humanity. The obsoleteness of such a tricky and scarce resource like oil is very important to our well being since the funds used in these schemes of acquiring and controlling oil sites can be redirected in other areas (green energy / education / health etc).

Also the fact that it is developed in a close partnership with such an important car manufacturer as Audi, makes the project viable on the long run. This seem to be quite costly, and i don't see Audi spending these money or something more or less than a PR stunt.

I really hope that they can make it price competitive with traditional oil. This project along Exxon's Syngas (if it will ever come to light) might be a step forward for the energy industry. On the long run, it could make all the distribution infrastructure obsolete ( i mean those continental pipelines) what cost tremendous ( but are instrumental in nowadays set up).

Apr 29, 2015
The obsoleteness of such a tricky and scarce resource like oil is very important to our well being since the funds used in these schemes of acquiring and controlling oil sites can be redirected in other areas (green energy / education / health etc).

You have to distinguish here why resources are allocated (and that behind those doing the allocation of resources you may find people invested heavily in oil...e.g. the Bush clan)

If money were invested for the good of thge nation or the people then the strategy would be clear: drop anything that causes conflict (with the ancillary military spending) and long term dependency on foreign powers.
But money is invested in order to benefit certain people rather than THE people then keeping oil (and with it the military) alive makes 'sense'.

...follow the money.

Apr 29, 2015
Take your head out of the sand people. There is no resource that has improved man's well being more than fossil fuels. Will this also hold true in the future? I don't know.

Apr 29, 2015
Take your head out of the sand people. There is no resource that has improved man's well being more than fossil fuels. Will this also hold true in the future? I don't know.


Exactly why burning them as we go forward is a really bad idea. They will become of greater and greater value as raw materials for chemistry and materials as time rolls on. Freeing their cost from the demands for fuel should make the cost of materials that come from them go down also.

Apr 29, 2015
Don when renewable energy is "Ripe" I will have no problem supporting it and leaving the fossil fuels in the ground to be used for the applications that absolutely require them. Until that point is reached I will not be pushed into uneconomic solutions to a nonexistent problem!

Apr 29, 2015
@MR166: it may surprise you to know that I mostly agree with you. Nobody really understands how fragile the world economy might be and energy cost underlies it all. I don't want to tempt fate in that regard either. Not much has a greater plethora of non-linear feedback mechanisms than it does and thus we have little to no capability of predicting the effects of even minor perturbation. The downside risk is just too great to fuck around with willy nilly economic solutions yet.

Where I disagree is where you say the problem is nonexistent. It is merely not imminent but we had better get well prepared for when it becomes imminent.

Apr 30, 2015
Don I could agree that there might be be a problem if the science was a little more clear, provable and less funded by governments intent on increasing their control of each individual.

If you look at the major players and government entities funding this science and how all of the proposed "Solutions" involve taxes, carbon reparations, government subsidies and huge increases in government powers one has good cause to wonder about the validity of the science.

Apr 30, 2015
@MR166: I may have misunderstood the article but in what way do you see this development as being within the considerations in your second paragraph?

Apr 30, 2015
There's nothing green about that system, if you accept the AGWite hypothesis. Its greener, but is it consequentially so? No way. It shows what a big market hypocritical AGWites are. They understand that while trying to change our behavior that they have no intention of acting like they believe their theories, so develop something "green" so they can go right on consuming and contributing to what they claim is a huge problem. But we're why there is no progress. Right.

May 01, 2015
"@MR166: I may have misunderstood the article but in what way do you see this development as being within the considerations in your second paragraph?"

It had nothing to do with the article and everything to do with comments in the thread.

May 01, 2015
In any case a combustion fuel still produces NOx, so this is, if anything, just a short-term fix for personal transport (might be viable for freight transport where energy per weight is more important)


The production of NOx is more to do with the attempt to wring the last bit of efficiency out of a combustion engine. Higher and higher compression ratios, higher combustion temperature, late ignition etc. all contribute.

And ultimately, solid oxide fuel cells won't produce any, since nitrogen takes no part in the reaction. That's the logical next step.

Besides, diesel isn't the only hydrocarbon you can synthesize. Propane, butane, octane etc. work perfectly in an otto engine an produce neglible NOx pollution.

May 04, 2015
Auntie wrote, "There's a lot of optimization to do before this is cost competitive."

Understatement of the year.

That claim of 70% efficiency deserves further scrutiny. I have a feeling they aren't talking about energy in versus energy content of the fuel. They're using electrolysis! High pressure! Those are some seriously energy-sucking processes.

More likely, that 70% efficiency is some sort of materials thing - how much of captured carbon dioxide and split hydrogen ends up in the final product.

Color me extremely skeptical that this can ever go anywhere economically.

May 04, 2015
"Color me extremely skeptical that this can ever go anywhere economically."

That is a universal problem with the Green Movement and green reporting in general, everything is a breakthrough until you add up the real costs.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more