E-diesel for cleaner air

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E-diesel for cleaner air
E-diesel for cleaner air

The e-diesel is one of those rare novelties of science, which seeks to make this world a place, perhaps a little better to live.

We all know that diesel and water do not get along well, much less inside an engine, but there are solutions to produce energy that have managed to bring these two matters together, and one of those solutions is e-diesel

What is e-diesel?

How e-diesel is made
How e-diesel is made

E-diesel is a synthetic fuel based on raw materials such as water and CO2 from the atmosphere. In other words, diesel produced by components as easy to find in nature as water and “air”. An alternative to the fossil fuel found in most cars today.

E-diesel has its origin in 2014, from an alliance between the German manufacturer Audi and the technology company Sunfire. It is a fuel that does not generate CO2 emissions, although it is still a diesel, so it works in conventional engines and can, with some luck, become a valid alternative to the fossil fuels that we have always used and that have polluted this planet to no end.

As we explained, e-diesel is based on water and CO2 to produce a hydrocarbon. The production of this synthetic diesel is possible by obtaining CO2 from the atmosphere, which in combination with the hydrogen in the water makes it possible to create a synthetic diesel by means of an electrolysis process.

The ‘e’ in e-diesel should not be confused with that normally used in biofuels. In this case it is a synthetic fuel.

Three elements are therefore needed to produce this new fuel: 1.) hydrogen, 2.) carbon dioxide and 3.) electrical energy. The first element is obtained from water, the second from the air itself captured through filters and the third is produced in the factory by renewable energies such as solar or wind power.

The first step is to heat the water to over 800ºC to separate the hydrogen from the oxygen. This is the process of electrolysis, where the hydrogen is separated from the oxygen. The first stays in the reactor, while the second is returned to the atmosphere.

Secondly, CO2 is incorporated into the reaction. This is obtained directly from the air using direct capture techniques. The CO2 is mixed with the hydrogen and they are made to react at a high temperature and pressure to achieve the desired mixture in liquid form. The combination is known as e-diesel or “blue crude“.

The liquid created is finally taken to a refinement process equivalent to that done with traditional diesel, so that it can be used in different cars.

An emission-neutral fuel

The most obvious advantage of e-diesel is its use of “neutral” elements. Unlike the limited fossil components, water and CO2 are abundant resources in nature. But e-diesel is also an ecological fuel.

The key to being environmentally friendly is that e-diesel does not increase CO2, which is primarily responsible for the greenhouse effect. According to its own design, e-diesel helps to reduce this because it uses filters to remove more CO2 directly from the air than is subsequently generated by combustion.

Another advantage of this fuel is that it is a technology adapted to today’s engines, so it does not require vehicles to have any special conditioning, as is the case with gas or electric engines.

Audi has the capacity to produce 400,000 liters per year

Sunfire + Audi = e-diesel
Sunfire + Audi = e-diesel

At the end of 2014, Audi partnered with Sunfire to start producing e-diesel. The pilot project was launched at a plant in Dresden. The work paid off and in 2018, the German car manufacturer announced plans to expand e-diesel production.

Through an agreement with the electricity producers Ineratec GmbH and Energiedienst Holding AG, a new plant was set up in Laufenburg in Canton of Aargau (Switzerland) for the production of the synthetic fuel.

This plant has a capacity of around 400,000 litres per year, which, although quite high, is far from the figures currently produced for other fuels.

In 2015, Audi successfully tested its e-diesel in an Audi A8 3.0 TDI. However, the company is also pursuing projects on other fuels such as e-gas.In fact, together with the company Global Bioenergies S.A. they are also working on e-gas, which is one of the various fuels of the future that promise great advantages but also face multiple challenges.

A promising fuel with important limitations

The big question to ask is, if e-diesel is green and also works in conventional engines, why has it not managed to attract more investment?, since this is a new discovery that presents some difficulties.

Firstly, there is the cost of production. Audi has not disclosed the cost, but it can be anticipated that the cost of e-diesel is considerably higher than that of extracting oil. You only have to look at the size of the infrastructure needed to produce a few litres, which certainly speaks of a product with quite high production costs.

On the other hand there is the question of energy efficiency, a key aspect of any fuel. And here some experts like Robert Rapier of Energy Trends believe that this e-diesel is not efficient enough to be viable on a large scale and commercially.

In short, it is not yet clear whether these kinds of initiatives, which seek to return some clean air to our environment, can one day displace the highly polluting and life-degrading fossil fuels on this beautiful planet. There is still much to be done in this area.

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