U.S. Navy Wants to Fuel Ships Using Seawater

By Carl Engelking | April 8, 2014 2:31 pm
A Navy fuel ship replenishes the the U.S.S. Mount Whitney on the Mediterranean Sea in October 2013. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Collin Turner/Released)

A Navy fuel ship replenishes the the U.S.S. Mount Whitney (right) on the Mediterranean Sea in October 2013. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Collin Turner/Released)

The U.S. Navy’s Arleigh Burke-class destroyer typically burns 1,000 gallons of petroleum fuel an hour. Most of the Navy’s fleet shares the same ravenous appetite for fuel, and refueling these massive warships can interrupt missions and present challenges in rough weather. However, researchers at the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory have now proven that it’s possible to power engines instead with a cheap, convenient supply of fuel: seawater.

Scientists have spent nearly a decade laboring to turn the ocean into fuel. The breakthrough, demonstrated in a proof-of-concept test, was made possible by a specialized catalytic converter that transforms carbon dioxide and hydrogen from seawater into a liquid hydrocarbon fuel.

A Naval Milestone

The development of a liquid hydrocarbon fuel is being hailed as a game changer. If Navy ships create their own fuel they can remain operational 100 percent of the time, rather than conducting frequent fuel-ups with tankers while at sea, which can be tricky in rough weather.

A catalytic converter extracts carbon dioxide and hydrogen from water and converts the gases into liquid hydrocarbons at a 92 percent efficiency rate, and the resulting fuel can be used in ships’ existing engines.

The feasibility of the approach was demonstrated in the test on April 2, when researchers flew a model airplane using the fuel from seawater. “This is the first time technology of this nature has been demonstrated with the potential for transition, from the laboratory, to full-scale commercial implementation,” said Navy research chemist Heather Willauer in a news release Monday.

The next major step is to build the infrastructure to convert seawater into fuel on a massive scale. The Navy would first start mass-producing fuel in land-based operations, which would be the first step toward installing fuel generation systems on ships. The Navy predicts the seawater fuel would cost about $3-6 per gallon, and could be commercially viable within a decade.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Technology, top posts
  • facefault

    Producing fuel by removing CO2 from the ocean is a wonderful idea. But how are they going to power their catalytic converters in the first place? This might make sense as a way for nuclear-powered ships to refuel petroleum-powered ships, but it’s not likely to result in self-fueling ships.

    • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com Michael Chilton

      Does a catalytic process require an energy input (think catalytic converter in your car)? The article does not provide enough information to tell us that. A lot of the commentary is based on the assumption that it does and that sounds more like an electrolytic prices to me. Need a lot more info to make commentary anything more than Isle speculation.

      • facefault

        At minimum, you need something to make the seawater flow through the converter. In a car the pressure of escaping gas is enough; but since seawater’s heavier and more viscous than a gas is, they’ll need a motor to propel it through.

  • MarkKaehny

    This is really for Nuclear Powered Aircraft Carriers – They can produce fuel for the aircraft, removing a huge dependency on tankers. That is why the test was with a model airplane.

    • TitanX

      And supply ships. If we convert some fuel ships to nuclear rhen they could gather and store fuel at sea for the non nuclear ships. You would have a fleet which had no external fuel supply chain.

  • http://reverbnation.com/davidowen David Owen

    SMRs could be deployed anywhere there is saltwater and produce hydrocarbons. These could replace biomass and fossil. A potentially huge win in the fight against climate change!

    • disqus_atlq8Zmtsd

      It doesn’t sound like it would be a win. In fact, it sounds like it has the potential to allow us to continue burning reasonably cheap hydrocarbon fuels well after “cheap oil” is depleted.

      • facefault

        It’ll certainly let us keep burning hydrocarbons, but it’ll marginally reduce ocean acidification. That’s pretty damn good, as burning hydrocarbons goes.

      • Colin Knapp

        Uh. No. It’s a zero-cycle. You extract CO2 from the water, you put that SAME CO2 back into the air, which eventually gets to the water.

  • http://www.mazepath.com/uncleal/qz4.htm Uncle Al

    Shjp’s exhaust is carbon dioxide and water. Run a closed cycle perpetual motion machine. (Make up the claimed 8% cycle loss with crew exhalation, carbon dioxide and water.)

  • Paul Maher

    what is the name of the process?

    • Ajeje Brazorv

      Magic

    • Van Snyder

      It might be related to Fischer-Tropsch, which converts CO + H2 into diesel fuel. Change the pressure and temperature, and it converts CO2 + H2 into diesel fuel. But Fischer-Tropsch never approached 92%. I’m interested to see more details. With this process, together with the Integral Fast Reactor, we can destroy nuclear waste, essentially eliminate net CO2 emissions, and provide all the energy humanity will need for the next million years or so, all in one stroke, at about 10% the financial cost and 0.1% the land cost of solar. There are no alternatives that actually work. Wind, biofuels, tides, geothermal, hydro… can never provide more than about 23% of current energy needs.

      • LeslieFish

        What do you mean, “land cost” of solar? The vast majority of solar-generators in use right now are panels on the roofs of existing buildings.

        • Van Snyder

          Do the math. Solar currently provides 0.12% of our electricity. Electricity is about 1/4 of our total energy requirement. An all-electric economy would need 1,700 GWe capacity. The average flux of solar power at the Earth’s surface is 192 watts per square meter. Solar cells are never going to be more than about 20% efficient. Utilities that have solar installations observe a 15% capacity factor. That means the average solar panel produces 5.76 watt-years per year. To supply 1,700 GWe would require about 295,000 square kilometers — the oft-quoted “State of Arizona.” If you’re generous and believe that you could put 1000 square feet of solar panels on the roof of every house, you’d only need 3 billion houses. Other factors that are also frequently overlooked include storage, and upgrades to the grid to handle dispersed sources. It is simply impossible to “go green” without nuclear power — not the 1950 design presently in use, but the more modern walk-away-safe Integral Fast Reactor described in “Smarter use of nuclear weaste in December 2005 Scientific American, “Prescription for the Planet” by Tom Blees, or “Nuclear 2.0″ by Mark Lynas.

          • Van Snyder

            Then there’s the problem of energy and financial payback. Current solar panels require 4.5 years to produce the energy required to fabricate and deploy them — assuming they’re kept clean. As little as one gram of dust per square meter can cut efficiency by a factor of four, increasing the energy payback to 18 years. So they need to be pressure-washed frequently. In Arizona, where do you get the water for that? They only last about 25 years. That means that if you increase solar capacity faster than about 5.5% per year, you fall behind on the energy budget. At 5.5% per year, you could provide all the capacity the American economy (currently) needs in about 148 years, but at the end of that time you would not have added one watt hour to the energy budget. It would all have been used to repay energy invested in earlier panels. Talk about pyramid schemes! Sacramento Municipal Energy District invested in solar panels. After subtracting the Federal subsidy, they estimated the financial payback would be 69 years — but they only last 25 years. But, hey, nobody’s paying for the Federal subsidy, right? It’s money that just materializes out of thin air.

          • Harryagain

            It rains in some places you know.
            And there is self cleaning glass

            I never have to wash my solar panels and they remain perfectly clean.
            The best place for solar panels is on roofs. They take up no additional space then.
            On an energy efficient home, solar panels can generate the same amount of electricity as is used.

          • Van Snyder

            The places it rains have lower capacity factors than the places it doesn’t rain. Pay your money and take your choice. Have you calculated your capacity factor? Divide the number of kilowatt-hours your panels produce in a year by the number of hours in a year and by the power rating of your panels. The result, your capacity factor, is guaranteed to be less than 50% because the sun doesn’t shine at night. If your experience is like the average utility, it’s closer to 15%. One gram of dust per square meter might look “perfectly clean” but can decrease efficiency by a factor of four. The average solar flux at the Earth’s surface is 192 watts per square meter. Solar cells will never be more efficient than about 20% (the quantum limit is less than 23%). Utilities that have solar photovoltaic installations observe a 15% capacity factor. That nets out to 5.76 watt-years per year per square meter. To provide all 1,700 GWe that an all-electric American economy would need would require 295,000 square kilometers — the oft-quoted “State of Arizona.” Assuming (generously) that you could put 1000 square feet of solar panels on every house roof, you would require only 3 billion houses. Since we don’t have 3 billion, solar panels would take up additional space. Then there’s the financial payback problem. SMUD says their financial payback is 69 years, but panels only last 25 years. I guess if you’re happy to be a taxpayers’ parasite, that doesn’t matter.

          • Harryagain

            I don’t need to work out my capacity factor or anything else.
            I read my electricity meters.
            They give factual information not theoretical bollix.
            I make approximately the same amount of electricity as what I use (including an electric car).
            The PV panels are grid tied, I export by day and import by night..

            Any renewable energy system needs all different types of generation so they overlap.
            It also needs smart meters and a smart grid.

          • Van Snyder

            How nice for you. How much nuclear waste do your panels destroy?

            Reading your electricity meters is how you compute your capacity factor. Accumulate your readings for a year — only the amount produced by your panels, not the net amount you buy from the grid. Divide those kilowatt hours by the number of hours in a year. Divide that by the panel rating in kilowatts. That’s your capacity factor. You will be surprised that the yearly output is far less than the rated peak power times the number of hours in a year.

            Harry’s second paragraph is correct. It’s not difficult to compute that the only carbon-neutral technologies that can actually power the world are solar and nuclear. Solar can’t destroy nuclear waste. The Integral Fast Reactor, described in “Smarter Use of Nuclear Waste” in December 2005 “Scientific American” can — and nothing else can do it without energy inputs.

          • Harryagain

            I know about power consumption thanks, I am an electrical engineer. I have had PV panels for years, I am aware of how they perform.

            Where did I say solar panels could destroy nuclear waste?

            So you want to design another reactor at vast expense that won’t be viable for decades?
            The policies of madness.
            Pie in the sky, another nuclear lie.
            The world is closing down it’s nuclear power. They have finally seen the futility and dangers.
            They don’t call it poison power for nothing.

          • Van Snyder

            The only technology to destroy nuclear waste without inputs of energy is the Integral Fast Reactor, not solar panels. Greens are worked up about nuclear waste, but don’t want to do anything about it.

            I don’t want to design a new reactor. I want to deploy one that was proven walk-away-safe, and that destroys nuclear waste, more than forty years ago.

            To Harry and his fellow travelers: Thanks for paving the way to a coal-fueled world.

            “They” call it poison powewr because it’s catchy and it works, but it’s false. Nobody has ever been injured by nuclear power in the United States, Britain, Germany, France, China, Korea,…. The United Nations Special Commission for the Effects of Atomic Radiation says six people were injured at Fukushima, and 56 were killed at Chernobyl. The World Health Organization says there is no evidence of ongoing increased risk of cancer either in Fukushima or Chernobyl.

            Lies to exactly the same extent that the IPCC is lying about climate.

        • Van Snyder

          The San Onofre nuclear generating station produced 2.3 GWe and occupied 84 acres. At 5.76 wattsd per square meter, a 2.3 GWe solar installation would require almost a thousand times more land.

          • Harryagain

            You forgot to include the nuclear waste and processing it.
            You forgot to included mining and refining the uranium.

          • Van Snyder

            No, I didn’t forget. Read “Smarter use of nuclear waste” in December 2005 “Scientific American.” The Integral Fast Reactor (IFR) destroys the substance we currently call “waste,” which is actually valuable 5%-used fuel. We currently have somewhat more than 60,000 tonnes of “waste” from nuclear power plants, and about 500,000 tonnes of depleted uranium, left over from enriching uranium for power plants and weapons. If used in IFR, one tonne of uranium becomes one GWe-year of electric energy plus one tonne of fission products. The US economy presently uses about 450 GWe-years per year of electricity. An all-electric economy would use about 1,700 GWe-years per year. That’s 450 tonnes of uranium per year to replace all of our current capacity, or 1,700 tonnes if we could get to an all-electric economy. We have enough uranium above ground, already mined, milled, and refined to replace all current electric generation capacity for 1,200 years, or to power our entire economy at a level of 1,700 GWe for 329 years. IFR turns uranium into fission products, not 5% fission products and 95% actinides, including very long-lived transuranics such as americium. 75% of fission products have half lives less than one year. Zirconium 93 constitutes another 5%, but it can be recycled back into fuel pin cladding. The remaining 20% is less radiotoxic than mined uranium within 300 years, not the 300,000 years for which current “waste” is dangerous. A 1,700 GWe economy would produce 340 tonnes of fission products needing special custody per year, or about 1 gram (the weight of a dime) per American. So the volume is reduced by a factor of 100, and the duration of special custody is reduced by a factor of 1000. 300 years isn’t a problem. Mix it into concrete and dispose it in the ocean. There are concrete dockworks, still intact, that the Romans poured at Caesarea in Israel more than 2,000 years ago. The best way to describe this is that IFR destroys waste, it doesn’t create it.

          • Harryagain

            You have thousands of tons of waste and no clue how to deal with it. .It costs billions just to keep in storage.Every attempt to permanently dispose of it has failed. (And not just in America).
            You have “orphan” nuclear power plants that have plan (financial or otherwise for decomissioning or dealing with the waste.
            The nuclear industry churns out lies and propaganda without a thought for the future.
            And then there is the plutonium problem. not even thought about.
            In the end it will become the taxpayers problem. Big business will walk away with the $billions, leaving the taxpayer to fix the mess.
            Worst of all is the nuclear waste left over from the nuclear weapons program, most deadly of all.

          • Van Snyder

            Read the posts. Don’t react with irrational and emotional hysteria to the word “Nuclear.” As explained in several posts, and “Smarter use of nuclear waste” in December 2005 “Scientific American,” we’ve known how to effectively destroy the “waste” (actually valuable 5%-used fuel) for more than fifty years, yet we refuse to do it.

            It’s not the nuclear industry that churns lies. It’s hysterically ignorant and emotional greens. Read Mark Lynas’s early books, when he was an irrationally hysterical and emotionally-driven green. Then read his “Nuclear 2.0″ to discover what happens when enlightenment strikes.

            The plutonium problem has been thought about, and Harry doesn’t have a clue what the answer is. The short answer: Turn it into electricity. The nuclear waste left over from the nuclear weapons program is not the “most deadly of all.” It consists mostly of U-238, which is barely radioactive, ant not fissionable.

            If Harry and other greens were not so hopelessly naive, and not so hopelessly driven by the reptilian parts of their brains, we wouldn’t now be burning coal. It was the hysterically irrational and emotional greens of the 1970’s who paved the way for coal. There have been about 1000 nuclear power plants proposed in the United States. Had they been built, American electricity generation would now be carbon neutral.

            Please! Please! Become informed! Engage your brain before you put your mouth in gear, lest you make it even more abundantly obvious how ignorant you are.

          • Harryagain

            If the nuclear waste problem was easy to solve, it would have been sorted out years ago.
            It hasn’t because it isn’t.
            These comforting noises the nuclear industry makes are lies.
            Irresponsible and dangerous lies.
            There have been several failed attempts, $billions lost.
            Note Taxpayers money.

            When nuclear power first appeared (in the UK) we were told the electricity generated would be too cheap to be worth metering.
            They lied then and they lie now.
            No-one knows the true cost of nuclear power because no-one knows how much the cost of waste disposal and final power station de-commissioning will be.

            Re plutonium it can only be used for power generation in very small quantities (5%) mixed with uranium.
            While it is in storage, it deteriorates and has to be reprocessed every ten or fifteen years. Not cheap.

            So don’t believe the lies from nuclear nitwits.
            They have painted themselves into a corner from which there is no escape. It will cost the taxpayer a fortune to resolve the matter.
            If indeed there is any solution at all.

          • Van Snyder

            The nuclear waste problem hasn’t been solved precisely because of ignorant shrill voices like Harry, who prevent proven engineering solutions from being implemented.

            Those who said nuclear electricity would be too cheap to meter were looking only at fuel cost, not counting construction amortization and operating cost. Even so, in seven of nine countries that have nuclear power, it is the least expensive. The other two are Korea and the United States. In many places in the United States, e.g., Washington and California, nuclear is cheapest. 768 grams of uranium, costing less than $US 100, could supply all the energy the average American would use in a lifetime.

          • Harryagain

            The cost of nuclear power is unknown for the good reason that the waste problem is not addressed and is unknown.

            There have been several failed attempts to bury the waste.
            Obviously the technology does not exist to deal with it.

            Several countries have been blindly building reactors relying on the nuclear industry lies that the waste can be dealt with when it manifestly can’t be.

          • Van Snyder

            Does Harry have a developmental disability? Is there a problem reading the word DESTROY? Maybe Harry doesn’t know that DESTROY and BURY are not synonyms. Harry ought to become less ignorant before becoming so eager to criticize something about which he apparently knows nothing.

          • Harryagain

            What drivel.
            Fuel is not reprocessed for purely financial reasons.
            Ie “new” uranium is cheaper to obtain than the cost of reprocessing waste.
            All about money.
            And total irresponsibility.
            But then that’s not new in the USA.

            The power companies know that in the end the taxpayer will be forced to pick up the bill.

            The reason “rogue states” are so keen to get nuclear weapons is that they know that this is the only way to guarantee freedom from attack by the USA.
            I think Saddam Hussein would have been left alone if he had had nuclear weapons.

          • Van Snyder

            Right. Reprocessing 5%-used fuel and selling the electricity is more expensive than storing it for 300,000 years. I get it now.

          • Harryagain

            You do?
            They always go for the short term solution (hoping the long term problem will disappear/be paid for by the taxpayer.)

            Tch tch.
            You are pretty thick.
            Why would Saddam bomb the oil facilities he wanted to take over?

            Kuwait was once part of Iraq.

          • Van Snyder

            I don’t know whether nuclear waste storage is paid by taxpayers in Britain. In America, however, by law, reactor owners store waste on-site, at their own expense, and pay a Federal surcharge for an hypothetical future national long-term storage facility. These costs are passed along, as they are incurred, to each utility’s ratepayers, not to current or future taxpayers.

            The reason most American reactor owners do not reprocess used fuel is that there is no American facility to do it. Some contract with COGEMA (in France) for it. Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter naively believed that if the United States did not reprocess 5%-used nuclear fuel, other nations would not build nuclear weapons. That worked well with Pakistan and North Korea, and it’s sure to work equally well with Iran.

            Current reprocessing systems use a solvent-refining system. These facilities are enormous, enormously expensive to build and operate, and remove only uranium and plutonium, leaving other actinides in the waste stream. This does absolutely nothing for the storage problem, because the waste is still dangerously radiotoxic for 300,000 years.

            The reprocessing system used for the IFR prototype at Idaho is much smaller, much less expensive, and on site. It separates essentially all actinides from fission products. 70% of fission products are not radioactive, or have half lives less than a year. 5% more can be transmuted in the reactor to extremely short half-lived isotopes. 5% more can be recycled into fuel pin cladding. The remaining 20%, 200 kilograms per GWe-year, needs special custody for 300 years, not 300,000 years. If all American energy were provided by IFR, the amount of 300-year custody waste would be one gram per American per year. If IFR only provided all current electric capacity, it would be 275 milligrams. If IFR only replaced current light-water reactors, it would be 55 milligrams.

            That Saddam would bomb Kuwait City if he had nuclear weapons was his promise, not my speculation. You’ll have to ask a psychologist why.

  • Paul Maher

    what about the other 20 Black Swans that could be pressed into service?
    Ask for the list. We are so busting full of new energy producing technologies!!. Look to men like Elon Musk, Michael McKubre, Dennis Bushnell, and Robert Godes to find out what could power the fleet. Why bother making another hydrocarbon fuel. Although for the Navy making a hydrocarbon fuel while at sea could be a good thing as long as they don’t bring it on shore. There are better ways to go.

    • LeslieFish

      Has anyone noticed how cheap, safe, small and efficient the Thorium nuclear reactor is? Any ship bigger than a PT boat could carry one of these on board and use it to make the synthetic hydrocarbon fuel.

      As for the problem of putting CO2 back into the sea, remember that in Nature CO2 is inhaled by plants. On land those plants have to be planted and tended, but at sea they grow naturally wherever sunlight strikes the water. Every sea-plant from krill to kelp will happily take in that C02 and grow on it.

      • Van Snyder

        Thorium reactors are still lab-bench toys. At least another twenty years’ development is needed before they’re ready for prime time. The Integral Fast Reactor prototype at Arco, Idaho was both a research reactor (the best one ever, according to Hans Bethe), and a commercial 20 MWe power source for the city. It’s ready now, and has been for thirty years. Besides being walk-away-safe (proven twice to international audiences in 1986), it destroys the stuff we currently call “nuclear waste,” which is actually valuable 5%-used fuel. Another downside of thorium breeders is that they produce 1% more fuel than they consume, while uranium breeders produce 5% more. Thorium is great in the long run because it’s four times more abundant than uranium, but it’s just not ready now.

      • Harryagain

        Plants have to be tended???????????
        You live in a desert?

        Krill is not a plant, it is a shrimp

  • Cornelius Gee

    If this new fuel can be used in ships and in a model airplane, surely it can be used in automobiles too. If this is the case then we can do away with the use of fossil fuel in the coming decades. The question is do the catalytic converters need to be powered to work? If so how? Will it be a form of hybrid system, part fossil fuel and part this new fuel?

    • Peter_Grynch

      This is a synthetically engineered “fossil fuel”. If it’s cheaper to pump it out of the ground we need to continue doing that. If the process proves cheaper to manufacture it then we need to do that. It’s all about economics.

  • ChrisFahlman

    This is very puzzling article. It’s more like a late April Fools joke.

    Whoever wrote it didn’t read the Navy’s press release carefully. The fuel produced will be for the aircraft. It will not be to power the ship. It’s not even clear from the press release that this process to make fuel would be aboard-ship (i.e., a nuclear powered aircraft carrier).

    As other comments have noted, there is no free lunch. You need a large power source to extract the Carbon Dioxide from the sea, and electrolize the water for its hydrogen, and react those to make syn-fuel. At sea, the only such source would be a nuclear engine (in which case, you’d never bother going through the rigmarole of using energy from the reactor to make the fuel to power the ship: you’d use the nuclear engine directly to power the ship). The potential energy in the syn-fuel is much lower than the energy inputs needed to make it. I’d be astounded if it were not cheaper to just store enough jet-fuel on the aircraft carrier before it left port, or even just send a fuel ship out to a deployed aircraft carrier.

    Maybe this process is not meant to be aboard ship, but deployed on American naval bases worldwide (outside the US), in order to ensure that there is a fuel supply for conventional ships, reducing the need to tank or pipe fuel into those bases, in the event of a war or blockade.

    • Ajeje Brazorv

      Which foreign country would allow a US base to build a nuclear plant? Or would you just use local electric power?

      • ChrisFahlman

        If the fuel plant were to be ship-borne on an aircraft carrier, then the nuclear power plant on the carrier could be used. (I consider this unlikely.)

        If the fuel plant was to be used on land in US navy bases overseas, then local electrical power could be used. But it is also possible that a small fairly portable on-base nuclear plant could be used. The army has long been pondering the idea of using small transportable nuclear plants to power bases. But you’re right to be skeptical that a foreign government would allow a plant like that to be build on a base.

        • Ajeje Brazorv

          I wouldn’t. I am foreigner…

        • fudfighter

          We already have portable nuclear plants: aircraft carriers. If they can make fuel for planes, they can make fuel for the rest of the ship fleet, too.

    • bobjohn

      “The potential energy in the syn-fuel is much lower than the energy inputs needed to make it” makes no sense to me. If it were true this entire scientific attempt would be useless. I think the potential energy must be at least somewhat greater than the energy required to obtain it, and if this is the case then the extraction and electrolization process could be self-powering, after an initial small amount of external energy is used to kickstart the process.

      • Bill Snowden

        Pretty sure Newton has something to say about the potential energy being somewhat greater than the energy required to obtain it. I wouldn’t hold my breath.

        • Ev Waldron

          The energy needed to create the fuel needs to be greater than the energy gained from using the fuel. With this process, as well as the current system of drilling for oil, the process of getting the fuel from the sea is only the final stage. Humans didn’t create the oil that is drilled. If we HAD we would have needed to put more energy into it than we would get out. Nature does a lot of the work for us, we just need to put in a little effort at the end to make it usable.

      • mudpuppy000

        Not useless, when you have nuclear power on an aircraft carrier. Sounds like it’s intended to make jet fuel at sea.

  • Alex Aumann

    “An army marches on it’s stomach”

    “Amateur [soldiers] discuss tactics, Professional soldiers study logistics.”

    The easiest way to take out an enemy army (or fleet) is to cut their lines of logistics. Without fuel, a navy is useless– the fuel is it’s soft underbelly. So what if a fleet could make it’s own fuel? This isn’t about cost savings, it’s about being able to have less things that need resupply in hostile waters.

  • Adam Ash

    The thermodynamics are, of course, rubbish. It must take more energy to break the bonds and recombine into usable hydrocarbon than you will ever get out of fuel so produced. So it has to have an independent energy source which provides significantly more energy than the energy produced. Just another silly idea. Next!

    • Kevin Baker

      You’re not understanding the article. No one is claiming it’s creating energy. What it is doing is converting electricity (likely from an aircraft carrier’s nuclear reactor) into easily stored chemical energy.

  • Derek Traviss

    I think you’re asking the wrong questions. First I’d ask for more details about the catalytic converter; what they’re using as a catalyst? And the expected decay rate of that catalyst. What potential by products are produced?

    • Van Snyder

      Read the real articles. The catalyst is Fe/K/Mn on alumina in a combined dry FT/RWGS reactor. Other than hydrocarbons in the C9-C16 range (i.e., jet fuel), the dominant by-product is methane, which the Navy doesn’t want. This could be oligomerized to heavier hydrocarbons, used for other applications (maybe in the kitchen), or sold into a natural-gas pipeline infrastructure.

  • BUCEPHALUS

    Those “navy” refueling ships are all civilian operated. 98 Merchant Seamen do the work five times as well as 250 Bluejacket Navy personel. News outlets really do need to hire a Maritime reporter to get the little facts straight.

  • DrKrypton

    and we are the experts. right?!? all the nay sayers here. lets let them prove it. it could be just like the scam about cold fusion.

    • Van Snyder

      Read the real articles, not the “Journalist” summaries. CO2 and H2 are extracted from bicarbonate in seawater (where 97% of oceanic CO2 is bound up) using a modest input of energy. CO2 + H2 are then converted to hydrocarbons using a Fischer-Tropsch process (Fe/K/Mn catalyst). The NRL lab-toy process currently converts 55-60% of CO2+H2O to hydrocarbons in the C9-C16 range (i.e., jet fuel). They don’t count the methane, which could be oligomerized to heaver hydrocarbons, or sold into the existing natural gas pipeline infrastructure.

  • Harryagain

    Absolute drivel.
    Thick journalists once again demonstrate complete ignorance of science.
    They need to get back to school and check out the law of conservation of energy.

    • kukisvoomchor

      The journalists are just oversimplifying. Apparently the scheme involves using excess onboard energy (nuclear, perhaps) to manufacture kerosene-like fuel using the seawater as chemical feedstock. So they’re taking energy they already have on hand to convert it into another form that’s physically more useful for their drive machinery — liquid organic fuel — at the cost of wasting about 8% of it. Don’t know why they’d do this, though maybe it’s a stopgap measure for times when the ships are low on kerosene but still have reserves of other types of energy.

      • Rigel54

        In battle access to fuel can be difficult. Tankers are sunk. Ports are closed. Distances are large. Nuclear drives the ship, but an aircraft carrier unable to fly aircraft is just a big target.

    • Eric E. Patterson

      Like the mainstream media did with using corn to make fuel grade ethanol? What a boondoggle! And they blamed it on environmentalists. The energy produced never matched the energy needed to produce it.

  • Mike215

    Look up ‘water as a fuel for cars” on google. For years there have been systems which can break down water into oxygen and H2 an use it as a fuel. It is nothing new and the Navy is desperate because of the high price of oil. Unfortunately, the big oil companies will not allow these devices for cars, but independent inventors have succeeded in using them on theirs cars.

    • Colin Knapp

      Nope. None of the systems online have ever been proven to work except for buses and some BMW and Honda cars. Those cars and buses use a hydrogen fuel cell, they don’t run on water.

      You can’t just split water without a tremendous amount of energy behind it. Hydrogen has extremely strong bonds and is hard to separate from other elements.

      • LeslieFish

        Think platinum.

    • LeslieFish

      The big oil companies can’t stop anyone from converting their own car to run on fuel-grade ethanol, which a lot of people are doing. To convert an existing standard car for ethanol, put “exotic fuel” seals in the engine, set the compression at 9 to 1, increase the bore of the carburetor intake-valve (or decrease the bore of the fuel-injector nozzles) by 30%, add a pre-heater to the fuel line, possibly add a manual choke, and off you go. Yes, you can actually make fuel-grade cellulosic ethanol at home. A lot of farmers are doing it these days, but you don’t need a whole farm to produce enough cellulose.

    • Harryagain

      Another conspiracy theory.
      It doesn’t work and never will.

  • Stephen Anderle

    Losing 8% c0ntinously. At 92% efficiency, they can’t go far.

  • LeslieFish

    Hooray! Now, maybe, all those cellulosic-ethanol producers — who’ve been selling job-lots to the military — can sell their product to the public, as a replacement for petro-fuel.

    • Van Snyder

      Do the math again. We currently get less than 1% of our motor fuels from 10% of our farmland. Supplying only fuels for planes and ships (I don’t envision electric ones any time soon), we would require 190% of our currently-harvested farmland, or 34% of our total land area. To provide all motor fuels would require at least 300% of the nation’s total land area (according to J. Craig Venter). What would we eat?

  • Mikki Mousse

    Breaking down sea water requires a helluva lot of energy.
    Where’s the energy supposed to come from?

    • Van Snyder

      Read the real articles. The process doesn’t break down seawater. It breaks down bicarbonate ions (where 97% of oceanic CO2 is stored), which requires much less energy.

  • Douglas Bladimir Cruz

    It is a posible outlet. About a country allowing the us to build a nuclear plant on its soil it’s also pausable

  • Dee

    Besides all the technical stuff, how will it affect the sea creatures? Is it recyclable? What will the waste product be and where will it go? Every good idea has a backside?

  • somethgblue

    After reading all the comments on this page hoping to glean some insightful information, I realized what hadn’t been mentioned, is that if the Navy is announcing this technology to Johnny Joe Public, it is a sure bet they are already using it, period end of story.

    After all it is a proven fact over the last century that military technology is at least 30 years ahead of what the public sees, if not more and they sure as heck don’t reveal anything that they don’t already have in use.

    So all the debate about whether or not it works is pretty much just mental masturbation at this point, ‘cuz if they are letting YOU know then you can’t bet the house its already operational, c’mon guys don’t be naive.

  • Raymond Hietapakka

    OPEC is toast.

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