A technology that goes one better than carbon capture could be crucial in fighting climate change

Our Science Editor says that the latest developments prove British companies are at the forefront of innovation in the green sector

Share
Related Topics

In the high-stakes game of climate change, there is no get-out-of-jail-free card. We cannot continue to burn the fossilised carbon stored underground for tens of millions of years as oil, coal and gas and hope that it will not end up in the atmosphere to exacerbate the greenhouse effect and global warming.

However, there is one technology that could help us. It is called carbon capture, where carbon dioxide from industrial emissions is effectively removed from the air and stored in a safe place where it can do no harm.

Even better would be to utilise this source of carbon by combining it with hydrogen from water to make hydrocarbon fuels – petrol. A small British company appears to have done this on a small scale and even claims to be on the verge of making it commercially viable.

The process is still in the early stages of development, and far too inefficient yet to compete with conventional fossil fuels. There are efficiency problems at each stage, from capturing the carbon dioxide from air to combining it catalytically with hydrogen derived from water vapour to make Syngas, methanol and more complex hydrocarbons.

Nevertheless, the technology has the potential to be a “game changer” in our attempts to avoid dangerous climate change, according to Tim Fox, the head of energy and environment at the Institution of Mechanical Engineers in London.

“What was just a smart idea in the minds of a handful of academics a few years ago is now a proven, engineered method for removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and making a useful product,” Dr Fox said. “The beauty of petrol from air is that you are effectively recycling CO2 and avoiding further transport emissions… It is hugely encouraging that it is British engineers and entrepreneurs who are taking air capture technology out of the lab and using it to create a product.”

There can be few better examples of the putative green economy than the small company behind this leap towards “petrol from air”. It was set up only three years ago, the brainchild of Tony Marmont, a soft drinks millionaire and renewable energy fanatic. Yet the small start-up seems to have stolen a march on the rest of the world by demonstrating CO2 capture as a viable industrial prospect.

However, even if it works, it does not mean that we can continue to burn fossil fuels with impunity. It is still not a get-out-of-jail-free card.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executives - OTE £60,000

£25000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about Custom...

Recruitment Genius: Care Workers Required - The London Borough of Bromley

£15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This homecare agency is based in Beckenh...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executives - OTE £50,000

£25000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about Custom...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executives - OTE £50,000

£25000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about Custom...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Polish minister Rafal Trazaskowski (second from right)  

Poland is open to dialogue but EU benefits restrictions are illegal and unfair

Rafal Trzaskowski
The report will embarrass the Home Secretary, Theresa May  

Surprise, surprise: tens of thousands of illegal immigrants have 'dropped off' the Home Office’s radar

Nigel Farage
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas