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Navy Plans to Make Jet Fuel From Saltwater

posted: 9/30/2012
WASHINGTON, D.C. (LOG NEWS SERVICE) -- Jet fuel from saltwater! Sounds more like something from the pages of a Jules Verne novel than a plan by researchers at the Naval Research Laboratory (NRL).                        

Verne’s fictional Capt. Nemo had electricity aboard his submarine Nautilus provided by sodium/mercury batteries, with the sodium provided by extraction from seawater.                        

The NRL announced Sept. 24 that scientists at the laboratory are developing a process to extract carbon dioxide and produce hydrogen gas from seawater, subsequently catalytically converting them into jet fuel by a gas-to-liquids process.                        

“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,” said research chemist Dr. Heather Willauer.                         The NRL said its scientists have developed a two-step process in the laboratory that will convert the carbon dioxide and hydrogen gathered from seawater to liquid hydrocarbons.                        

In the first step, an iron-based catalyst has been developed that can achieve carbon dioxide conversion levels up to 60 percent and decrease unwanted methane production from 97 percent to 25 percent, in favor of longer-chain unsaturated hydrocarbons (olefins).
                         
In the second step, these olefins can be converted into a liquid containing hydrocarbon molecules suitable for conversion to jet fuel by a nickel-supported catalyst reaction.                        

The NRL predicts that jet fuel from seawater would cost in the range of $3 to $6 per gallon to produce.

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