Audi’s fantastic new synthetic diesel!

If Audi’s new diesel product is as advertisedAudiFuel_web_1024, it could revolutionise how we fuel trucking, mining, and farming. What’s all the fuss about?

Their base product, which they’re calling ‘blue crude’ is created using a three-step process. The first step involves harvesting renewable energy from sources such as wind, solar and hydropower. They then use this energy to split water into oxygen and pure hydrogen, using a process known as reversible electrolysis.

This hydrogen is then mixed with carbon monoxide (CO), which is created from carbon dioxide (CO2) that’s been harvested from the atmosphere. The two react at high temperatures and under pressure, resulting in the production of the long-chain hydrocarbon compounds that make up the blue crude.

Once it’s been refined, the resulting e-diesel can be mixed in with our current diesel fuel, or used on its own to power cars in a more sustainable

Sunfire analyses have shown that the synthetic fuel is not only more environmentally friendly, but also has superior combustion when compared to fossil fuels. The overall energy efficiency of the e-diesel is 70 percent, they report.

“The engine runs quieter and fewer pollutants are being created,” said Sunfire Chief Technology Officer Christian von Olshausen in a press release.

That we could make synfuels like these was never in doubt – as long as we had abundant, reliable, *cheap enough* electricity. Peak oilers were always concerned about the many problems with renewable energy, especially the fact that  the energy costs of producing all the storage to really back up all that wind and solar power costs so much energy that it eats into the energy profit of the whole system. (EROEI).

But now  nuclear power is ‘renewable’ — as Breeders eat nuclear waste and use uranium so efficiently, we could run a much larger civilisation on uranium from seawater no faster than it is topped up again by the erosion of uranium particles off land into the sea!
Now that nuclear power can be mass produced with passive safety, we’ve got a chance. A chance to use extremely high EROEI nukes to power a synfuel civilisation, whether that’s charging Elon Musks’s EV’s, splitting water for hydrogen, or making the synthetic diesel above. The fact that Audi appear to have come up with a cheaper way of making high efficiency diesel is *great* news, and I hope they grow exponentially for trucking and mining and farming at least. I do still hope Elon Musk’s EV’s win in our cities as EV’s would make cities far less smoggy.

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6 Responses to Audi’s fantastic new synthetic diesel!

  1. mikestasse says:

    Yeah right……… > will pump out 160 litres of the synthetic diesel every day

    1 barrel per day !

    This has been technically possible for ages,thereal question is what is the ERoEI. It’s probably so awful that the only value in the project is publicity stunts like this one.

  2. Eclipse Now says:

    1. How much did the Drake well pump each day at the beginning? All enterprises start with a single step.
    2. All synfuels have terrible EROEI’s! The question is what is the EROEI of the original source of electricity grid carrying it!
    3. You know both of these points, but just don’t like someone raining on your doomer parade.

    • mikestasse says:

      They claim to ‘only use’ renewable energy…. but if it needs 10 boe of renewable electricity to make 1 barrel of oil, or even 1 barrel of usable fuel, it is going to be a bad energy deal.

      And where do you get industrial quantities of reliable renewable electricity? In reality, the renewable electricity is just part of ALL electricity, and claiming you are only using the renewable part is cheating.

      7.33 barrel of oil = 12 MW.h
      so its going to need approx 2 MW of panels (with storage) to make 1 barrel.

      The process is going to need Lime to extract the CO2, and lime is limestone heated to drive off the CO2, which would be a far more economical source of CO2 than air.

      And catalysts (Cobalt/Iron/Nickel/Ruthenium) to promote the Fischer-Tropsch reaction,
      and catalysts do require changing, and digging up, refining, transporting.

      So this is just a stunt.

  3. Eclipse Now says:

    “And where do you get industrial quantities of reliable renewable electricity?”
    Mike, wake up and smell the coffee. Nuclear IS renewable now! Erosion replenishes microscopic particles of uranium back into the sea faster than we could use it. Uranium is ‘renewable’ now. Nukes are passively safe now. Breeders are ‘green’ now. And let’s not forget that LFTR’s are on the way, burning thorium in a reactor core that cannot ‘melt down’ because it’s already liquid!

    With a guaranteed supply of abundant electricity to fuel *any* synfuel process, whether hydrogen or this “Blue Crude” or even James Hansen’s boron powder, the only question now is which is cheapest and kindest to the environment. All your EROEI questions are blown away by nuclear’s high ERoEI of 75. Breeder EROEI’s could be in the hundreds, maybe even the *thousands*, because of all the extra energy energy saved in *not* mining uranium but just burning the ‘waste’ transuranics.

  4. mikestasse says:


    To sum up, can Audi produce fuel from thin air? Sure. There is no question about technical viability. However, they are also not the first to make this claim. In 2012 I wrote an article called Investors Beware of Fuel from Thin Air in which I examined very similar claims from a company called Air Fuel Synthesis. The question boils down to one of economic viability, which appears to be challenging given what has been released about the process.

    Also keep in mind that Audi has only done this process at very small scale. These projections were based on lab scale experiments. Audi has now scaled the process to 160 liters per day, which is about 1 barrel per day. They will now gather data at this scale, and either firm up or contradict some of their assumptions about the process. If everything works as hoped, they will then need to scale up again to something in the 100 to 1,000 barrel per day range. These scale-up steps are like gates that must be successfully passed, and historically most seemingly promising processes fail to pass through those gates for various reasons. As a result, one should never take too seriously a cost estimate for fuel production from a commercial plant when the data is derived from experiments at a much smaller scale.

    It is important to note that because this process is an energy sink, it could exacerbate carbon dioxide emissions. The reason they are claiming it doesn’t is because they are assuming little to no carbon emissions from the inputs. That’s why the graphic stipulates that the electricity comes “entirely from renewable energy sources.” It will certainly be difficult to run a plant continuously on intermittent energy inputs, but any fossil fuel inputs into the plant will have their carbon dioxide emissions magnified. To understand this, consider that it may take 2 or 3 BTUs of energy input for each BTU of energy output. You could possibly pull that off in an environmentally-friendly way with 3 BTUs of solar power input and 1 BTU of diesel output, but if you use natural gas instead that 1 BTU of diesel output may create the emissions from 3 BTUs of natural gas input. In a case like that, it would be better to use that fossil fuel input directly in an engine (if possible) than to utilize it to produce a fuel in a process that is an energy sink.

    So, circling back to the claim that “carbon-neutral diesel is now a reality” — I think most would agree that projections of what a process will look like after it has been scaled up 2 more times don’t constitute reality. They constitute a vision of reality. This claim is no more accurate than if I were to say “Colonies on Mars are now a reality.”

    Finally, please note that the analysis here isn’t meant to demean the work that has been and continues to be done. I consider this very worthwhile research. I am simply attempting to offer a more complete and realistic perspective in light of the gushing reports by the mainstream media.

    Link to Original Article: Is Audi’s Carbon-Neutral Diesel a Game-Changer?

  5. Eclipse Now says:

    Hi Mike,
    this is a much more reasonable contribution and I think I pretty much agree.

    However, I just wanted to emphasise that the eco-modernists I read think we can have *all* the clean green electricity we need (in nuclear & some renewables). With abundant electricity, we have the energy to manufacture all the energy sink synfuels or charge all the energy sink EV’s or split all the water for energy-sink hydrogen that we need. I completely agree that individual transport vehicles of the future will be energy sinks, not energy sources like burning oil. It’s also completely irrelevant. Cost will be the main factor!

    Have you read the manifesto?

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