Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) has served the Navy and the nation for over 85 years. Within these years it has met many technological challenges. And now, it plans to meet another big technological challenge. Scientists at NRL in Washington are planning to develop such a system that can produce jet fuel from seawater. They have already merged into their plan to materialize it.
Refuelling is a very difficult and dangerous procedure when two vessels are at sea, especially if the seas are rough, or there is a storm, or even in the middle of a fire fight. Last year the US Naval Military Sea Lift Command, the main fuel supplier to Naval vessels that are at sea, delivered around 600 million gallons to ships that were on the open water. Most of the time, they faced adverse weather. On the other side, running out of fuel would be devastating to a naval ship in action. Hence, the whole scenario has forced US Navy to find out a better way of refueling.
The NRL has designed such a system that harvests Carbon dioxide (CO2) and Hydrogen (H2), the raw ingredients of jet fuel, from the seawater. Recovery of CO2 and the production of H2 from seawater is possible using an electrochemical acidification cell, and the conversion of CO2 and H2 to hydrocarbons (organic compounds consisting of hydrogen and carbon) can be used to produce jet fuel.
Dr. Heather Willauer, research chemist said, “The potential payoff is the ability to produce JP-5 fuel stock at sea reducing the logistics tail on fuel delivery with no environmental burden and increasing the Navy’s energy security and independence. The reduction and hydrogenation of CO2 to form hydrocarbons is accomplished using a catalyst that is similar to those used for Fischer-Tropsch reduction and hydrogenation of carbon monoxide. By modifying the surface composition of iron catalysts in fixed-bed reactors, NRL has successfully improved CO2conversion efficiencies up to 60 percent.”
NRL discovered that gathering CO2 from the seawater was far more efficient than getting it from the air because the concentration in seawater is 140 times greater. The H2 and CO2 go through several processes to create Olefins (one kind of hydrocarbon), and then two more steps to turn the Olefins into suitable jet fuel.
So far the lab tests have indicated that the process will produce jet fuel at a cost of around $3 – $6 per gallon. Now all that is needed is large scale tests on the open sea.
Source : Naval Research Laboratory (NRL)