Turning air into petrol

BMW invests in 'game-changing' technology that removes CO2 from the air and converts it into fuel

18 June 2020 - 12:46 By Denis Droppa
Prometheus will sell its zero-net-carbon fuel alongside regular petrol.
Prometheus will sell its zero-net-carbon fuel alongside regular petrol.
Image: Supplied

A US energy company called Prometheus Fuels is removing carbon dioxide (CO2) from the air and turning it into petrol.  

The company aims to eliminate the need for fossil fuels sucked out of the ground, and its CO2-based petrol can be used in standard vehicles without any modification.

Giving the project impetus is BMW’s announcement that it is investing in Prometheus Fuels through its BMW i Ventures hybrid venture firm.

“The ability to create gasoline (petrol) from air, cost competitively with fossil fuels, is a game changer,” said Greg Smithies of BMW i Ventures.

“The average car stays on the road for more than eight years, meaning that even if the whole world switched to buying 100% electric cars tomorrow, it would still take almost a decade for today’s internal combustion engines to be off the road.

“Clearly we aren’t switching to 100% electric vehicles tomorrow, so that’s not fast enough. By creating carbon-neutral gasoline from CO2 captured from the air, Prometheus Fuels allows the climate impact of today’s internal combustion engines to be massively reduced immediately.”

Prometheus Fuels will begin selling its carbon-neutral fuel at US petrol stations later this year, allowing consumers for the first time to have the option to purchase fuel that doesn’t add CO2 to the atmosphere, at a price that competes with fossil fuels.

As the fuel is captured, it doesn’t add any net CO2 to the atmosphere from exhaust emissions, making it a zero net carbon fuel.

Replacing all fuels made from oil and gas with zero net carbon fuels can reduce about 25% of global carbon emissions, making this one of the largest levers that modern society has in the fight against climate change, says BMW i Ventures.

Unlike other sustainable fuels, such as biodiesel and bioethanol, that call for engine modifications, Prometheus’ petrol works with regular internal combustion engines.

“By using our zero net carbon fuel, which recycles the CO2 that’s already in the air, we can extend the runway we have to solve the climate crisis,” said Rob McGinnis, founder and CEO of Prometheus.

“BMW i Ventures is a leader in investing in new tech in the manufacturing and transportation space. Their investment will help us to accelerate our efforts to bring our zero net carbon fuel to market quickly.”

Prometheus Fuels says its processes are all powered by solar and wind energy, and are thus carbon neutral.