Working the black seam (remix)

Air Force studying use of coal to improve jet fuel

I can’t seem to find the original article, so here it is via USAF AIM Points:

The U.S. Air Force is studying whether coal could be used to increase the fuel efficiency of fighter aircraft, according to a service official.

Researchers are examining coal’s potential to expand petroleum-based jet fuel to get more energy out of it, said Col. Mark Stephen, chief of the science and technology division in the Office of the Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Science, Technology and Engineering.

“It’s not squeezing coal to get jet fuel out it,” Stephen explained. “It’s really using coal to filter and stretch the jet fuel.”

Meanwhile, here’s a proposal to create deisel and jet fuel from coal itself in Montana:

The process is called Fischer-Tropsch, named for the German scientists who developed the process in the 1920s for converting coal to diesel fuel, which later ran the Nazi war machine. In more recent decades, the process was used in South Africa to fuel its vehicles when the world would not trade with the apartheid nation. It still produces 150,000 barrels of fuel a day from coal. Energy technology firms in the United States and elsewhere have fine-tuned F-T to make both its process and products pollution-free.


The F-T fuels are also clean – no sulfur, mercury or arsenic. Those ingredients are recovered from the process and are marketable byproducts on their own.

Schweitzer said a 150,000 barrel per day unit would cost about $7.5 billion to build. However, F-T units can be built in modules, so a 22,000 barrel per day unit could cost $1.2 billion, he said.

One impetus for the development of the F-T fuel is that the Pentagon wants to have a single battlefield fuel. The F-T product can be used as jet fuel also.


  1. Coal. The energy of the future. Just keep on removing those mountaintops, and we’ll keep funneling money through R&D to create a way to exploit this finite resource while rewarding our largest campaign contributors. It’s perfect really.

  2. F-T also works with methane, at least for making diesel. I presume it could also make the same Jet Fuel. Getting methane from waste biomass (non-fosile) is getting easier to do. But yeah a single, safe, energy dense, and cheap fuel for our jets would be a -goood- thang. Coal meanwhile can also be used as a foam for superstrong construction. Even if it is banned a s power source, expect them mountains to keep comin down.

  3. Well, now that we’re pulling as much oil out of the ground as we can, it seems, perhaps this is the only way to augment the flow. And perhaps if/when oil starts running out, coal will still be around (I bet it will). I think ideally we switch many traditional uses of coal over to nuclear and stick to using coal for producing oils. That way the coal mining doesn’t increase, coal doesn’t run out as fast and we still get our favorite types of energy.

  4. Screwy: ‘Coal a finite resource’. Get a grip. Right now, at present rates of use, and using only known reserves, we have 500 YEARS of coal. That’s only KNOWN reserves. Yes, technically you’re right. But using your logic nuclear is also finite. So is wind power.

  5. One of the issues with Coal reprossing is due to the unfortunate fact that the bulk of the coal reserves are located in either arid or out of the way locations. The coversion process uses huge quanities of water, and the water treatment costs are rarely mentioned in the estimates. As a practical matter, large scale coal coversion is a nonstarter. Now a more logical idea is methane/natural gas recovery from landfills. Converting natural gas to hydrogen can aready be done efficiently. The incorporation of plasmatrons cut harmful byproducts and boost efficiency. With the Military bleeding money due to oil costs. The incorporation of hybrid vehicals for noncombat transportation, and incorporating plasmatrons on existing vehicals could result in significant savings.