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USAF Looking For Alternative To Oil-Based Fuel

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posted on Feb, 17 2007 @ 02:43 PM

I dont know if this was posted yet, but here goes anyway..

The New York Times reports that the U.S. Air Force will test blending traditional crude oil-based jet fuel with a synthetic liquid made first from natural gas, and, eventually, from coal:

By late this summer, on the hard lake beds of the Mojave Desert, where the Air Force tests its most secret and high-performance aircraft, a lumbering B-52 is scheduled to take off in an experiment in which two of the giant bomber's engines will burn jet fuel produced not from crude oil but from natural gas. The plane's six other engines will burn traditional jet fuel — just in case.

The Air Force uses half of the fuel consumed by the U.S. government. The Air Force's share amounted to 3.2 billion gallons of aviation fuel in fiscal year 2005.

The Air Force consumed 3.2 billion gallons of aviation fuel in fiscal year 2005, which was 52.5 percent of all fossil fuel used by the government, Pentagon statistics show. The total Air Force bill for jet fuel last year topped $4.7 billion.

If the experiments with the synthetic fuel works, the Air Force planes to buy 100 million gallons in the next two years.

According to the Times, oil prices above $40 to $45 per barrel make a blend with synthetic fuels a cost-effective alternative to oil-based jet fuel.

The experimental fuel is being supplied by Syntroleum Corporation, which has provided synthetic fuel for testing by the Departments of Energy, Transportation and Defense since 1998.

The cost per gallon of the test fuel will be expensive. Syntroleum can produce 42 gallons of synthetic fuel from 10,000 cubic feet of natural gas. The raw materials cost about $70. but if the military moves ahead with using the synthetic fuels, the Syntroleum technology could be used by factories elsewhere to produce the same 42 gallons of fuel from just $10 worth of coal.

The Air Force is working with the Automotive Tank Command of the Army, in Detroit, and the Naval Fuels Laboratory. The research could result in a common synthetic fuel for the entire military.

One hundred gallons is a mere drop in the bucket of the 3.2 billion gallons used by the Air Force last year. But it is certainly a step in the right direction.

I think this is a good direction to go.
Though I wonder how this will affect the environment.

[edit on 022828p://4402pm by semperfoo]

posted on Feb, 17 2007 @ 06:06 PM
Natural Gas-powered turbines are a good idea. There are a couple of chinks in the armor though.

1) Natural gas doesn't give out the energy of other, more complex molecules. In fact, it gives a lot less. Also, the very nature of gases is a problem. If you want to store enough of it to make its use worthwhile it has to be at a high pressure. This poses 2 problems. Not only is it a hazard if it sustains damage as the pressure tears the structure apart, but the structure required to keep the gas at high pressures adds weight to the aircraft, never a good idea.

2) Natural gas can be found in its... Erm... Natural form from decaying matter. Garbage, sewage, detritus, all that junk. It's commonly extracted from city dumps. However, large amounts are also made from... You guessed it. Coal and Oil. I'm not saying all of it's made by them, but a fair chunk of it is. Unfortunately, the conversion process from oil to natural gas is not entirely efficient, which sticks us with some energy loss.

Now these points are more relevant to methane. However, propane, for example, is a little bit different. At high pressures it turns into a nice convenient liquid, which is why propane tanks can last for a while. So it'd be more convenient to use propane. In fact, it gives out more energy than methane so it'd be a lot more convenient.

One thing I'd kind of like to point out is the use of hydrogen. It's most definitely a better option than any fossil fuels. Not only this but it doesn't create any carbon dioxide, the dreaded greenhouse gas of death. It doesn't give out the energy of fossil fuels, but we are quite literally swimming in oceans of it. It's good to see that we're moving over though and we may be able to use cleaner forms of energy. It could lead to use of alternative energy sources in automobiles, always handy.

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