Tuesday, December 12, 2023

BMW invests in technology that recycles CO2 from the air into carbon-neutral gasoline

BMW i Ventures, a Venture Capital Fund of the Bavarian brand that supports pioneering initiatives in the automotive field, has announced a $12.5 million investment in Prometheus Fuels, an energy company. Prometheus Fuels comes up with a technology by which it is able to extract carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and convert it into zero-net carbon gasoline – an equivalent fuel that is molecularly identical to petroleum-based fuel.

Founded by Rob McGinnis, a Yale Engineering Ph.D., Prometheus launched from Y Combinator in early 2019. His company’s vision is to eliminate fossil fuel consumption by removing CO2 from the air and converting it into gasoline, jet fuel, and diesel, which can be reused immediately without the need for modifications in standard vehicles. They are also planning to allow this recycled fuels to correlate in price with available fossil resources.

Although the conversion of carbon dioxide to liquid hydrocarbons, such as the Fischer-Tropsch synthesis, were promising methods to accomplish this step, they have proven to be very energy-intensive and, therefore, not very practical. McGinnis, on the other hand, uses very inexpensive aqueous electrolysis with base metal catalysts.

The approach, which first produces carbonaceous substances such as ethanol, has also proven to be highly effective. The conversion of these substances into simple hydrocarbons is an exothermic reaction which, however, operates at relatively mild temperatures and pressures. Until now, the separation of products from water has also been an obstacle. This step can be achieved using nanotechnology and room temperature conditions.

Prometheus Fuels estimates that if all fuels made from oil and gas with zero-net-carbon fuels, CO2 emission would be reduced by around ten gigatons per year, which represents around 25% of world production.

BMW i Ventures believes that Prometheus Fuels can contribute to carbon-neutral fuel by capturing CO2 from the air, thus dampening the climate impact of fossil fuels. Prometheus Fuels chief Rob McGinnis says the technology is an opportunity to extend the time needed to change the transport sector.

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.

The company plans to sell it at gas stations, at a price that competes with fossil fuels, starting as early as this year.