Princeton: Use Coal, LNG, Non-Food Crop Biofuel Blends as Corn Ethanol Replacement
December 6, 2012 5:41 PM
comment(s) - last by
Princeton says energy-dense slew of renewable and fossil resources could solve the nation's fuel shortages
is injecting itself into the
corn ethanol debate
, suggesting that the U.S. is moving in a very mistaken direction. In a new study
as a whitepaper in the
, the team suggests that 130 synthetic fuel plants built across the country could replace "dirty" corn ethanol, cut fuel shortages, and cut carbon emissions by a whopping 50 percent.
I. Synthetic Fuel -- a Corn Ethanol Killer?
The proposed synthetic fuel would be a blend of liquefied coal, liquid natural gas, and
non-food crop biofuels
. While that doesn't sound much like crude oil, the researchers say the synthetic fuel blend would actually be much closer chemically to traditional gas than corn ethanol, reducing the likelihood of ECU incompatibility in older vehicles leading to engine damage.
The downside is sticker shock; the team, led by
, a professor of
chemical and biological engineering
at Princeton, suggests that the total cost of the plan might be $1.1T USD. Thus the team suggests a slow rollout of synthetic fuels over the next 30 to 40 years.
Prof. Floudas [center], along with graduate student Josephine Elia and Richard Baliban, who received his Ph.D. from Princeton in 2012. [Image Source: Frank Wojciechowski]
Professor Floudas remarks, "The goal is to produce sufficient fuel and also to cut CO2 emissions, or the equivalent, by 50 percent. The question was not only can it be done, but also can it be done in an economically attractive way. The answer is affirmative in both cases."
His team estimates that as the price of crude oil continues to creep up in upcoming decades, and as process improvements continue in producing synthetic fuels, that the alternative fuel slew will be cost competitive.
Chemical engineering graduate student Richard Baliban, a lead author on past papers for the team who graduated in 2012, remarks, "Even including the capital costs, synthetic fuels can still be profitable. As long as crude oil is between $60 and $100 per barrel, these processes are competitive depending on the feedstock."
II. 1920s German High-Temperature Method Repurposed
The basis of the Princeton plan is to use a method dubbed the "Fischer-Tropsch process". The technique was developed in the 1920s in Germany to turn coal into liquid fuel; it uses heat to liquefy the solid fossil fuel into a liquid resource.
Complex chemical reactions catalyzed by inexpensive catalysts (nickel or iron) are employed at temperatures of around 1,000 to 1,300 deg. C to convert the solid fossil fuel into a liquid slew of hydrocarbon chains, plus useful leftovers, like waxes.
An example Fischer-Tropsch reactor [Image Source: BioPact/Syntroleum]
The team added a new twist to the process, reinjecting the waste carbon dioxide, fueling more hydrocarbon formation, and cutting emissions. Heavy metal and sulfur -- typical pollutants in crude oil -- are eliminated during the synthetic fuel production process, making for a cleaner burn.
The team estimates that currently the price of synthetic fuel would be around $83.58 USD in Kansas, one key state targeted for future production.
Prof. Floudas suggest the alternative fuel is the perfect trick for switching the U.S. of volatile, expensive foreign oil sources, commenting, "His is an opportunity to create a new economy. The amount of petroleum the U.S. imports is very high. What is the price of that? What other resources to do we have? And what can we do about it?"
This article is over a month old, voting and posting comments is disabled
RE: I wish this would be accepted... But I doubt it will.
12/10/2012 9:04:23 AM
So long as the farming lobby can continue to push bribes (aka "political contributions") to politicians, we will continue to have corn-produced ethanol in this country. This is why we need to make corporate/lobbyist contributions illegal....but with the recent SCOTUS decision, that's not likely to EVER happen!
RE: I wish this would be accepted... But I doubt it will.
12/10/2012 12:17:54 PM
Wrong. Lobbying is the symptom, not the problem. If you want lobbying to end, reduce the amount of power entrusted to the gov't. If getting Bill Bob Jr elected won't get you $90B in someone else's money, you won't spend $5M getting him elected.
"We shipped it on Saturday. Then on Sunday, we rested." -- Steve Jobs on the iPad launch
AAA Calls on EPA to Put a Stop to E15 Gasoline, Says It's Dangerous to Vehicles
December 1, 2012, 6:07 PM
Startup Uses Bacteria to Make Synthetic Gas, Could Knock Off Ethanol
June 17, 2008, 4:30 PM
Ford, Toyota, and Universal Pictures Celebrate "Back to the Future Day' in Style
October 21, 2015, 4:19 PM
Consumer Reports Flexes Muscle, Hits Slumping Tesla Motors Stock
October 20, 2015, 4:13 PM
Debunked: Beneath the Lies, Nigerian "Pee Generator" Is Still Pissing Into the Wind
October 19, 2015, 7:53 PM
Hot Air? President Obama, G7 Pledge to Eliminate Most Fossil Fuel Use by 2100
June 8, 2015, 5:40 PM
Study Predicts Self-Driving Vehicles Could Rake in Billions
March 6, 2015, 8:34 AM
Dual-Motor Tesla Model S P85D's "Insane Mode" Shocks Passengers
January 28, 2015, 11:18 PM
Latest Blog Posts
Sceptre Airs 27", 120 Hz. 1080p Monitor/HDTV w/ 5 ms Response Time for $220
Dec 3, 2014, 10:32 PM
Costco Gives Employees Thanksgiving Off; Wal-Mart Leads "Black Thursday" Charge
Oct 29, 2014, 9:57 PM
"Bear Selfies" Fad Could Turn Deadly, Warn Nevada Wildlife Officials
Oct 28, 2014, 12:00 PM
The Surface Mini That Was Never Released Gets "Hands On" Treatment
Sep 26, 2014, 8:22 AM
ISIS Imposes Ban on Teaching Evolution in Iraq
Sep 17, 2014, 5:22 PM
More Blog Posts
Copyright 2016 DailyTech LLC. -
Terms, Conditions & Privacy Information