P2X – Can you create something from nothing?

marraskuu 2, 2020

You have probably heard the phrase “you can’t create something from nothing”. It’s a catchy phrase and holds truth in most cases. Critically thinking, you seldom are in a situation where you don’t have anything. At least on land you have air to breathe and that’s where the catch is. 

Things magically appearing out of thin air

Air is much more than just “air” and you can actually make things appear out of thin air, if you know what’s hidden in the nothingness. As scientists around the world are trying to find alternatives for fossil fuels, one promising solution is to create them from scratch. This hocus-pocus trick is called Power-to-X or concisely P2X¹.

Electricity and simple compounds into use

P2X means creating a usable end product (X) from power (P) and simple source materials. Preferably, the power should be created sustainably, e.g. via solar, wind or hydro power, as creating X with fossil fuels is not profitable from the perspective of mankind’s survival. The simple source materials include carbon dioxide (CO₂) and nitrogen (N₂) captured from the atmosphere (or straight from an emission source) and hydrogen (H₂) separated from water by electrolysis²

“Traditional” made sustainably

The source materials are then processed to create f.e. methane (CH₄), methanol (CH₃OH), dimethyl ether (C₂H₆O) and ammonia (NH₃). These can be used as fuels as such or processed further into “traditional” fuels including gasoline, diesel and kerosine. They can also be used for chemical industry thus creating plastics, fertilizers etc. sustainably. 

Solving problems efficiently

P2X technology also solves the issue of renewable energy that jokers always point out. If there’s no wind or sunshine, energy can be used from the fuel created during overproduction. This would allow regulating power to the power grid without expensive batteries. A cost-effective method for storing excess energy would also make renewable energy more compelling. 

Power-to-X seems to be a gift that keeps on giving. It would allow transition from fossil fuel transportation to renewable painless, as current internal combustion engines can be run with the P2X fuels. To give a perspective how effective this technology is, the annual CO₂ emissions of the Finnish forest industry can be turned into fuels that cover the annual consumption of Finnish road traffic³.

Key technology for energy transition

No wonder that P2X is one of the key technologies in the transition towards sustainable economy. Of course, it requires a lot of electricity, but the price of renewable energy is constantly dropping. R&D is still in progress, but the results in small scale have been promising. Hopefully in a decade or so we have the first refineries creating sustainable fuels with P2X technology in large scale. And we at TT Gaskets would have the opportunity to provide these pioneer facilities Smarter Sealing for a Safer Future.