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Gates-backed startup Infinium is making sustainable fuel from water and carbon dioxide: Report
e-fuel
Photo courtesy: UNI

Gates-backed startup Infinium is making sustainable fuel from water and carbon dioxide: Report

| @indiablooms | 10 Apr 2024, 12:18 am

A company in the United States is working towards revolutionising the transportation industry, particularly in sectors like aviation and heavy-duty trucking, which are notoriously difficult to decarbonize, media reports said.

According to a Bloomberg report, Infinium, a Gates-backed startup based in Sacramento in California has emerged as one of the pioneering e-fuel producers globally, transitioning from a mere concept to industrial-scale production.

Electrofuels, also known as e-fuels, are manufactured using captured carbon dioxide or carbon monoxide, together with hydrogen obtained from water split by sustainable electricity sources such as wind, solar and nuclear power.

Infinium sees potential in a fuel derived from carbon dioxide. If successfully scaled, this alternative fuel could change dependence on fossil fuels to run heavy-duty vehicles to planes, the report said.

In its facility, Infinium employs electrolysers to break down water into hydrogen and oxygen, using electricity sourced from nearby wind and solar farms.

The hydrogen is then passed through a reactor where it combines with CO2 gathered from local refineries, triggering a sequence of intricate chemical reactions facilitated by patented catalysts.

The outcome is a synthetic fuel with identical chemical characteristics to conventional fossil fuel-based alternatives.

Infinium manufactures approximately 8,300 liters of electrofuel or e-fuel every day and then distributes it to clients throughout the United States, according to the Bloomberg report.

Since its Corpus Christi facility came online in October, it is likely that the future of the city, which is home to dozens of fossil fuel companies and exports more crude oil every year than any other city in the US, is on its way to transformation, the report said.

Hydrocarbons, comprised of hydrogen and carbon atoms, are the foundation of crude oil, which is refined into fuels for various applications, from trucks to aircraft.

However, these atoms can be rearranged in an industrial setting to produce alternative fuels with potentially lower environmental impacts.

Aviation alone contributes to over 2% of global greenhouse gas emissions, while freight transportation, predominantly carried out via trucks, ships, and trains, adds another 8%, the Bloomberg report said.

With increasing demand for travel and shipping, coupled with emissions reductions in other sectors, these figures are projected to rise substantially in the coming years.

Regulatory measures such as the European Union's heightened scrutiny of heavy-duty vehicles and its mandate for sustainable aviation fuel are exerting pressure on these industries to mitigate their environmental footprint.

The surge in demand has spurred efforts to expedite solutions, including the development of e-fuels.

Despite being virtually nonexistent five years ago, the e-fuel market is forecast to reach nearly $50 billion by 2030, according to some industry estimates, according to the report.

While the use of electrolysis to produce hydrogen-based products—the fundamental technology behind e-fuels—is not new, its commercial application has historically been limited.

Early adoption in the 1920s saw factories employing electrolysis to produce ammonia, but most were shuttered in favour of cheaper alternatives that relied on natural gas and coal, despite their significant greenhouse gas emissions, according to the report.

However, the growing emphasis on clean energy is necessitating a reconsideration of electrolysis, particularly among companies in sectors like airlines and freight transportation, as they grapple with their carbon footprint, said the report.

Although commercial production of e-fuel is still in its nascent stages, there is considerable interest in its potential, notes Rose Oates, an analyst at research firm BloombergNEF.

Robert Schuetzle, founder and CEO of Infinium, believes e-fuel can play a substantial role in decarbonizing transportation, Bloomberg reported.

The three-year-old startup has 13 additional projects in development across Texas and other locations, it said.

At Infinium's Corpus Christi facility, machinery operates around the clock to primarily produce e-diesel for trucking, alongside e-kerosene for aviation and e-naphtha, commonly used as a solvent.

At full capacity, the facility can produce approximately 3 million liters of e-fuel annually, according to the report.

While the breakdown of each product's volume is not disclosed, if all of it were e-diesel, it could fuel a truck with a payload of around 20 tons on 190 trips around the equator.

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