JOHANNESBURG (miningweekly.com) – South Africa's coal-to-liquids company Sasol is studying the conversion of carbon dioxide (CO2) into fuel.
Engineers and scientists in Sasol's technology division are working on algaeic forms of methanol production and Singapore's Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology reported a CO2-to-methanol breakthrough earlier this year.
Sasol produces large volumes of CO2 in the production of synthetic transport fuels from coal at its plant in Secunda and is committed to reducing its CO2 footprint through the introduction of greater production efficiencies, carbon capture and storage and through innovations like algaeic methanol production.
"This is long-term future stuff, but this what they are looking at," Sasol CEO Pat Davies tells Mining Weekly Online.
The company is also looking at using biomass to supplement coal for conversion into synthetic transportation fuels.
Sasol is working with several universities both in South Africa and around the world.
In thinking beyond the internal combustion engine, Sasol is able to provide a fuel suitable for use in fuel cells - in which methanol can also be used - it is preparing for an era of electron mobility.
"We think the future of transportation mobility is going to be very much driven by the electricity chain, by electron mobility. This is why we have already made an investment in thin-film solar to generate electricity on a renewable basis. Then, as battery technology improves, certainly for the passenger vehicle side, we see that over many years going the way of being electricity driven.
"Of course, heavy vehicles, ships, trains and that kind of heavy transportation is still going to rely on diesel for a long time, and we are perfectly positioned to supply that out of our gas-to-liquids and coal-to-liquids plants," Davies tells Mining Weekly Online.