Do Synthetic Fuels Hold Promise

04 July of 2011 by

A reader asks:

Craig, did you see that the Air Force has begun using asynthetic oil that is algal based from Solazyme in a militaryhelicopter? Could this be the beginning of the synthetic oil era?

Personally, I’m unconvinced that biofuels can scale to make ameaningful replacement for oil. What works very well in the laboratoryor at a small scale in extremely well controlled conditions falls apartquickly in large, real world applications.

Having said that, I do believe that synthetic fuels generally have a future. 2GreenEnergy client Windfuels, for example, which aspires to produce gas/diesel from off-peak windenergy, water, and carbon dioxide, implements a five-step process whosethermodynamics look quite solid and hold great promise.

All this, of course, competes with electric transportation. The needfor liquid fuels disappears to the degree we can improve batterytechnology and lower its cost. It will be interesting to see where thisall will go over the coming decades; it will most certainly be a longtime before we have electric replacements for the drive train in largetrucks, aircraft, etc.


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