Turning paint fumes into fuel

I had the opportunity last week of visiting Ford Motor Co.’s Oakville assembly plant, where they have just installed a new fumes-to-fuel facility. The facility extracts paint fumes from its auto paint shop and, after filtering and processing the organic volatile compounds, turns them into fuel. That fuel is then reformed and put through a molten carbonate fuel cell to produce up to 300 kilowatts of electricity. I detail the process in my Clean Break column today.

It’s still very experimental, but Ford is trying to figure out the most economical way of reducing its paint-shop emissions. This fumes-to-fuels process can reduce CO2 emissions by 80-plus per cent and eliminate NOx. The electricity also reduces the plant’s draw from the grid, which in a jurisdiction that’s heavily dependent on coal would be a big improvement. It may be many years still before such a process becomes economical, but it’s nice to see an automaker like Ford willing to experiment even as its industry faces tough times.

One thought on “Turning paint fumes into fuel”

  1. The cheapest way to reduce paint fume emissions is to use lightweight, fiber-reinforced composites to build cars. These materials can be impregnated with pigments that make painting irrelevant. The energy savings on the road (because of the weight savings) would be many orders of magnitude higher than whatever is produced by the 300kW fuel cell after energy has been used to process the fuel to feed it.

    ….but that would make too much sense for a company like Ford.

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