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Converting sea water to Navy jet fuel

by Mike Hoffman on October 2, 2012

Navy scientists and researchers say they are close to a breakthrough toward turning seawater into jet fuel.

The U.S. Naval Research Laboratory is working to extract the carbon dioxide and produce hydrogen gas from the seawater. The key is then converting the carbon dioxide and hydrogen into hydrocarbons that can then be used to develop JP-5 fuel stock.

JP-5 is what fuels Navy jet fighters and results in multiple fuel transfers to aircraft carriers to maintain their onboard fuel stock. Producing that fuel from the abundant sea water would save the Navy from executing those sometimes risky transfers.

“The potential payoff is the ability to produce JP-5 fuel stock at sea reducing the logistics tail on fuel delivery with no environmental burden and increasing the Navy’s energy security and independence,” said Heather Willauer, a research chemist with NRL.

Navy officials estimate the process used to convert the seawater to fuel would cost the Navy between $3 and $6 per gallon.

Of course, this supposed breakthrough comes as the Republicans in Congress have fought against the efforts by the Navy to develop alternative fuels. Republicans claim the Navy can’t afford to attempt to create fuel out of seawater or cooking oil when the defense budget is getting slashed.

Navy and Marine Corps leaders have said they can’t afford not to considering the advances the Marine Corps has made in operational energy in Afghanistan.

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