In Finland, a start-up wants to produce hydrocarbons using renewables

Key Points
  • In towns and cities around the world, air pollution is a big problem.
  • From low emission buses and green walls a range of ideas are being developed to boost urban air quality.
VIDEO2:1002:10
A start-up wants to produce hydrocarbons using renewables

In towns and cities around the world, air pollution is a big problem. From low emission buses and green walls to canopies containing algae, a range of technologies and ideas are being developed and deployed to boost urban air quality.

In Finland, one firm is working on a process that it says can boost the air quality inside buildings and generate a useful by-product in the form of hydrocarbons.

Soletair Power's system has several steps to it. The idea is to power it using renewable energy. An electrolyzer produces hydrogen from water, while a "direct air capture module" collects carbon dioxide from the atmosphere or a building's ventilation system.

The hydrogen and carbon dioxide react with one another, producing hydrocarbons including fuels.

Soletair Power says it will integrate its system into buildings. Petri Laakso, the firm's CEO, explained to CNBC's "Sustainable Energy" that city air could be pushed through a ventilation unit and a carbon capturing unit, resulting in less carbon dioxide indoors. The firm's electrolyzer and synthesis unit would then be utilized to produce hydrocarbons.

If the building were connected to a gas grid, Laakso said, "you could provide synthetic methane, which you can pump into (the) gas grid." The grid could be used for energy storage or as a filling station for cars, he added.

Whether Soletair Power's concept becomes a fixture on buildings remains to be seen, but the idea is generating interest.

In April 2019, it announced it had secured 500,000 euros (around $551,630) in seed funding from the Wärtsilä Corporation to "pilot and commercialize its concept" of boosting air quality in buildings through the capture and conversion of carbon dioxide into "synthetic renewable fuel."

In a statement at the time, Wärtsilä said it saw "great value" in Soletair Power's concept and added that it would "provide global support in the development and commercialisation of the technology."