With the rising costs of fuel coupled with dependence on hostile and unstable nations for fuel supplies when in the sea, scientists and engineers at the US Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) have announced that they are working on technology that would enable the production of jet fuel from seawater, resulting in naval vessels that could refuel themselves when at sea.
Every year the US Navy fleet of 15 oil carriers deliver 600 million gallons of fuel to navy ships at sea, the logistics problems associated with it are obvious and at a time of crisis when fuel supplies can be stopped by other nations, a ship that can make its own fuel from seawater would definitely be an advantage. The idea here is to make use of trapped CO2 in seawater in the form of dissolved carbonic acid, carbonate and bicarbonates, along with hydrogen to produce jet fuel which can run the turbines.
The tech employed here is tricky as the process works by extracting carbon dioxide and hydrogen from seawater using a three-chambered electrochemical acidification cell. Once extracted, hydrogen and CO2 are passed to a heated reaction chamber with iron as a catalyst. The gases react and combine to form unsaturated hydrocarbons with methane released as a byproduct.
The tech has been tested in the Gulf of Mexico and the research team is working to better the process to make it reach practical levels. The estimated cost of fuel hence produced is expected to be somewhere between $3 and $6 a gallon, which is twice the cost of current jet fuel. Apart from the cost, the technology has other unanswered questions to it. The team doesn’t really explain how the energy required to run the reaction is obtained.