At an industrial chemistry conference in New Jersey, USA, Nakamichi Yamasaki of the Tokushima Industrial Technology Centre in Japan announced that he had found a way to make heavier hydrocarbons such as propane and butane from CO2 at relatively low temperatures and pressures. However, his work has yet to be independently verified. Many attempts have been made to synthesise hydrocarbons by mixing carbon with hydrogen in a reaction chamber at very high temperatures, but yields have always been pitifully low.

Yamasaki has used hydrochloric acid as a source of hydrogen ions. CO2 is bubbled into a reaction vessel where it is heated to 300°C at 100 bar. The temperature and pressure are low enough to make it feasible to scale up the reaction so it can run on a power station’s waste heat. Yamasaki says that by using iron powder as a catalyst, he has been able to make substantial amounts of methane, ethane, propane and butane, which he was able to vent off as gases when the mixture cooled.