The Defense Department buys more jet fuel than any other organization in the world. So the Pentagon's higher-ups are just as sick as the rest of us -- more so -- about sky-high fuel prices. Small wonder that the brass is asking for proposals to supply 200 million gallons of synthetic jet fuel, as part of big-league field tests in 2008 and 2009.The request, notes Inside Green Business, comes from the Defense Energy Support Center (DESC), which oversees the Pentagons fuel purchases. It's part of a larger military investigation into an eighty year-old process for converting coal or natural gas into liquid fuel called Fischer-Tropsch. It's what helped the German Army make 124,000 barrels of fuel per day during World War II.
The possible purchase would send 100 million gallons each to the Air Force and Navy for testing on ships, airplanes and other operational units, according to a DESC source. The alternative fuels would likely be blended with existing DOD fuel types, such as the Air Forces JP-8 and the Navys F-76, in a 50/50 mixture or similar ratio, according to the source. There wont be enough alternative fuels to do a one hundred percent [alternative] blend for at least a decade, the source says, but even reducing petroleum fifty percent in this country is huge. What DESC is saying is we dont want [carbon dioxide] greenhouse gases emitted into the atmosphere.The source says each of the military services wants to maintain its current single-fuel policy, under which all vehicles are run with as similar a fuel type as possible. DOD officials want to use 50/50 blends widely for the service tests at first, with an eye to potentially retooling the ratio for optimum efficiency later on...There may... be problems finding a supplier, or even a combination of suppliers, that can satisfy the request for alternative fuels. No domestic infrastructure can [currently] handle that much demand, says the DESC source, adding that the purchase would likely be from a combination of coal-based Fischer-Tropsch fuel and fuel derived from tar sands and oil shale, which have been eyed by government and industry planners as potential sources of synthetic petroleum. There currently is no widespread market in the U.S. for such petroleum alternatives, although the source says hopefully this will be an impetus for private industry to use synthetic fuels as well. Because the private sector doesnt have the research and development budget we do, theyre waiting to see how our projects go so they can adopt whatever we develop.