Wind Exec Pitches ‘Triple Win’ in Scheme to Turn Natural Gas into Gasoline
A Vancouver-based CEO with a track record developing British Columbia’s first commercial wind farm has a dream: to run cars in B.C. and California on low-carbon, synthetic gasoline produced from the province’s booming northeastern natural gas fields.
Juergen Puetter, through his company Aeolis Wind Power, built B.C.’s first wind farm in 2009, then sold it to AltaGas. The company still holds rights to develop up to five gigawatts of additional wind generation near Chetwynd, in the province’s northeastern corner.
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“That energy, however, is essentially stranded for three reasons,” writes JWN Energy: “BC Hydro does not have enough capacity to firm up this intermittent power, there is a lack of regional demand for the electricity, and there are no transmission lines to export it.”
But the same area is rich in dry natural gas, which is relatively uninteresting to companies more focused on developing the area’s more lucrative gas pools, JWN notes. That apparently started Puetter thinking about his problems with wind generation: storing energy to offset lulls in the wind, and getting it to market.
The solution he arrived at: use the energy from wind and “proven technology”, including an Exxon-produced catalyst, to process the area’s abundant methane into liquid gasoline—a product that would be easy to both store and transport, and unlike ethanol biofuels, a drop-in substitute for conventional gasoline refined from oil.
Puetter said his plan would meet upcoming low-carbon fuel standards in British Columbia and California more effectively than ethanol-blended fuels. Those rules call for transportation fuels to reduce their carbon intensity by 10% by 2020. Canada’s federal government is also developing a low-carbon fuel standard.
But ethanol blends cannot meet that standard, Puetter asserted. “If you do the math for gasoline, which emits 93 grams [of carbon] per megajoule, and add 10% of something that emits 45 grams per megajoule, you cannot get a 10% reduction in carbon intensity,” he told JWN. By contrast, “using dry natural gas and renewable energy for your refining process yields [a] 20% reduction in carbon intensity.”
Into the bargain, he added, “you end up with a fully compatible gasoline that meets [Federal Test Methods] standards. This is different than ethanol, which always has to be brought to a central location and blended into gasoline. We’re making stand-alone gasoline that you can fuel up with.”
Peutter has established a new company called Blue Fuel to advance his scheme. He envisions a refinery in northeastern B.C. capable of producing 2,400 tons of gasoline a day—enough to meet a fifth of the province’s gasoline demand, or 1.4% of California’s. Electricity for the processing would initially be purchased from BC Hydro, and later generated from Aeolis’ wind rights. Gasoline would reach customers by rail tanker from an existing siding.
The Vancouver promoter estimates the cost of his full vision at C$2.2 billion. So far, he’s looking to raise $50 million for detailed engineering of his proposed refinery.
“It’s been incredibly more complicated and slower than we’d ever imagined,” Puetter said of the fundraising process. “But we believe we’re very close to being able to announce something tangible.”