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Time for Fischer-Tropsch February 23, 2008

Posted by OldGuy in Alternatives.
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Now that oil has topped $100 a barrel, it high time to look for alternatives to oil. The most mature process for synthetic fuel is the Fischer-Tropsch Process. It’s been around a while.  Nazi Germany developed it for use during World War II. When the world put South Africa under an oil embargo because of its apartheid policies, they adopted FT. They developed it into a clean-burning fuel, and were able to generate of electricity and make fertilizer with during the processing. What was left over helped make paving materials.

The problem is that it costs about $45 a barrel to make it. Until a couple of years ago, regular oil cost less than that, so no one wanted to invest in it. Now that oil prices have spiked, it looks pretty cheap.

Western Interstate Energy Board study report

Experts say you could build a medium-sized plant (30,000 gallons a day) right next to existing coal fields. Very little transportation cost. Not vulnerable to weather impacts. And ten would cover the DoD’s current energy needs, without additional energy conservation measures.

But, you ask, is this artificial fuel as good as oil-based gasoline? Researchers have found that it works well for the turbine engine. Dr McGrath says the only problem shown so far is that it’s almost too clean. Our military systems are designed to use dirty fuel, so for a while we’d need to blend traditional oil with FT synthetic fuels. But that’s still a huge savings until we can redesign our systems to work with the cleaner fuels.

I expect that we will use the huge Science & Technology research capacity of the DoD to drive the whole US market to developing not only efficient FT plants, but also to develop new vehicles and power plants that burn cleaner without expensive (and fuel-inefficient) scrubbers on the exhaust.



1. Allen Taylor - February 23, 2008

I found your site on technorati and read a few of your other posts. Keep up the good work. I just added your RSS feed to my Google News Reader. Looking forward to reading more from you.

Allen Taylor

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Not that I’m impressed a lot, but this is more than I expected when I found a link on Delicious telling that the info is awesome. Thanks.

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