Waste Not, Want Not

The Air Force’s vision for fostering a synthetic fuel market domestically to help wean the United States off of its dependence on foreign energy sources includes a change of mindset in one’s approach to producing energy, William C. Anderson, assistant secretary of the Air Force of installations, environment, and logistics, said at a USAF-sponsored energy talk April 15. Despite conservation efforts and the potential for deriving synthetic aviation fuel from coal under the Fischer-Tropsch refining process, the US will inevitably be producing more carbon dioxide emissions over the next decade than it does today, he said. But herein also is an opportunity. “We have got to look at CO2 and other emission sources as potential commercial products and not as waste,” Anderson said. Indeed included as part of the plan to host a coal-to-liquid fuel refinery at Malmstrom AFB, Mont, is the concept to pump the CO2 emissions into oil wells to aid in the extraction of additional oil, he said. And the Air Force, along with the Department of Energy and private and public research entities, is exploring how to take the CO2 emissions from producing CTL and recycle them back into the production process, combine them with hydrogen, and produce additional fuel, Anderson said. “The idea is to use all of the carbon,” he told the Daily Report after his talk. “If you are emitting a waste that has carbon in it, CO2, you are emitting energy potential.” But the challenge is not trivial. While CTL burns cleaner than JP-8 aviation fuel, the process of creating it is “2.5 times dirtier,” said retired Gen. Charles F. “Chuck” Wald, a member of the US Energy Security Leadership Council, who appeared with Anderson. Still Anderson said that CTL would be greener over its entire lifecycle than current petroleum-derived jet fuel.