The US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency – aka DARPA – has set its Big Brother eye on “clean coal” for airplane fuel. It’s unveiling a program to demonstrate both the economical, and environmentally friendly, conversion of coal-to-liquid (CTL) fuels.
According to Aviation Week, DARPA has issued a broad agency announcement (BAA) soliciting research proposals and plans to award 12-month contracts totaling $4.56 million to demonstrate the feasibility of alternative CTL technologies. Already investigating bio-fuels, the agency says its CTL program is intended to demonstrate processes that could meet Defense Department demand for JP-8 jet fuel from U.S. coal reserves at a cost-competitive price compared with petroleum-based fuels.
DARPA says existing direct and indirect coal liquefaction processes are “extremely expensive to implement, consume large amounts of water and produce unacceptable amounts of atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) and other pollutants.”
DARPA is aiming for a $1.5 billion plant that will make 100,000 barrels of fuel per day where each kilogram of coal converted uses only 0.5 kg. of water. Currently, each kilogram of coal converted uses about a kilogram of water and produces 1.3 kg of CO2 and 0.27 kg of oil, says DARPA. In fact, fuels from coal produce 80 percent more CO2 than petroleum-based fuel, but DARPA believes CTL concepts may exist that avoid the production of CO2. The need for water as a source of hydrogen is also an issue with existing methods.
It seems like flying less might also be a good option – 100,000 barrels a day!