Air Force Turning Waste into Synthetic Diesel

synthetic-diesel1It takes a lot of energy to run the world’s most powerful military, and the U.S. military is looking at more non-petroleum options for its operations. This article from my favorite scientific blog, Armed with Science, talks about a method by the Air Force Research Laboratory’s (AFRL) Advanced Power Technology Office (APTO) to turn synthetic gas (syngas), which could be collected from waste sites even at the most forward of bases, into synthetic diesel.

APTO utilized a company with extensive experience in the Fischer-Tropsch (F-T) synthesis process. In this application, syngas is passed through a sealed reactor vessel over copper condenser tubes that are coated with a cobalt catalyst. Applying proper heat in the reactor causes a chemical reaction that results in synthetic diesel fuel. The fuel can be used in ground vehicles or diesel generators to create electricity for base operations.

The initial demonstration system, contained in a steel-framed skid for portabililty, produced less than one barrel of fuel per day. Further system refinements could increase the output, with the capability to improve to 10 barrels. Test results showed that the created fuel successfully operated a 20kW diesel generator.

The team created its own syngas supply through a methanol dissociation process, but APTO has other ongoing efforts to supply syngas through Waste to Energy systems that use biomass or municipal solid waste to create syngas.

Not only does this help ensure a fuel supply, but it also helps a base reduce its waste, while helping keep us less energy dependent on some parts of the world that might not be that friendly towards us.

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