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Coal-Based Jet Fuel Aces Combustion Tests

A synthetic jet fuel comparable to Jet A or military JP 8, but derived from at least 50% bituminous coal, has successfully powered a helicopter jet engine, according to a Penn State fuel scientist.

The JP 900—on which the Penn State team has been working since the early 1990s—is produced by hydrotreating a mixture of light cycle oil—a petroleum byproduct—and coal-derived refined chemical oil—a distillate derived from the refining of coal tar (a by-product of the metallurgical coke industry). The jet fuel comes off as a distillate.

The fuel has superior resistance to decomposition at high temperature, and it designed to be stable at 480°C or 900°F (hence the designation JP-900). Penn State originally began the research in the search for a very thermally stable fuel for the next generation of high-performance aircraft.

The current situation with energy prices and sources of petroleum are providing a new perspective on the potential benefit of the fuel.

Because the fuel is 50% derived from coal, it could reduce our use of imported petroleum for this purpose by half. We have shown in tests that the mix can go to at least 75% coal.

—Harold Schobert, Penn State professor of fuel science and director of the Energy Institute

The process can be carried out in existing refineries with some retrofitting and small amounts of the leftover components will feed into various portions of the petroleum stream. The lighter portions will go to the pool of chemicals that make gasoline and the heavier ones go to the diesel or fuel oil streams.

Combustion tests showed that JP 900 meets or exceeds almost all specification for JP8 and Jet A. These tests showed that JP 900 has a flash point higher than required for JP8, a lower viscosity and freezing point and a higher smoke point.

The coal-based fuel is lower in aromatics—such compounds as benzene and toluene—than conventional jet fuels and is almost sulfur free. From an energy point of view, JP 900 produces almost exactly the same BTU as JP8.

Not only does JP 900 meet most of the specification for JP8, but it also has the high flash point required of JP5, naval jet fuel and the thermal stability of JP 7, a high performance fuel.

The fact that our fuel is almost dead on to JP 8 is something that the Air Force likes. This fuel was intended to be a high heat sink fuel, which it is, but it can also be used in existing engines.

—Harold Schobert

The project now targets coal-based replacement for existing fuels with the hope that this will interest both commercial and military users. So far the Penn State project has produced 500 gallons of fuel in a pilot plant operated by Intertek of Warren, Pa. The Penn State researcher would now like to produce about 4,500 gallons, or about 100 barrels, of the fuel for future testing by the Air Force and others.

Funding for the research comes form the U.S. Air Force Office of Scientific Research and the Department of Energy.




And the EROEI? And CO2 numbers?


Oh,great. Another use for coal.


the key is treating the slurry with hydrogen

since its not a energy crisis but a liquid fuel crisis
i think EROEI isn't that important

Rafael Seidl

The cost of this synthetic fuel must be quite high, in terms of dollars as well as the GHG generated during production. On the plus side, it's cleaner burning and ultra-low in sulphur.

CTL technology was used by the Germans during WW2 and the South Africans in the apartheid years. From a technology point of view, it makes sense to build on proven technology to obtain jet fuel with a high fraction of domestically sourced energy.

In the future, we'll all have to learn to fly a lot less frequently and pay a very hefty premium for biogenic jet fuel. Something like JP 900 can only be an interim solution for a a few decades at most - depending on how GW unfolds.

Joe L

I wonder how this compares with the bio-based substitute jet fuel being developed at the U. of North Dakota... suppposedly on the verge of US Air Force testing...


I think EROEI is important especially where government action for public well being is concerned.

When you get down to business, DOD is not going to care about GHGs and shouldn't. Country as a whole should be another story. DOD is a big user, AF especially, but not that big in the grand scheme.


jet fuel today only accounts for 10-20% of ticket price,
so its no problem if jet fuel price doubles

this are then maybe 5-10euro more in a intereurope fly
15 euro more in a fly between us and europe

and new aircrafts with 15-25% reduction in fuel consumption are ready:

so i think no need to worry

and then we have still biodiesel jetfuels


As conventional crude becomes more expensive, as its supply becomes increasingly uncertain, and as price volatility escalates, the most logical option for fuel production is coal liquiefaction. The fuels are cleaner, production can be optimized to generate required fuel. This is not a new thing. The Germans powered their war machine in WWII using similar technologies - both direct and indirect liquefaction were used extensivelly to produce fuels similar to crude derived ones.

Costs for everything have dropped over years as technologies improve, efficiencies are induced and scale increases. a lot of technologies that are unaffordable at the beginning become affordable over time as companies ramp up production and seek new ways to cut costs eg though consolidation. Synfuels will follow this trend.

To cure the carbon dioxide headache, the CO2 can be channelled to carbon dioxide uses like enhaced oil recovery, methanol, Urea production etc.


Another good way to re-use that CO2 is with algal oil production.


Another way to use CO2 is the redox coal/biomass reaction at 1000 degrees to produce carbon monoxide:

CO2+C = 2 CO

And then add H to make fuels;

O2 to run turbines.


Dr. Alexander Lippisch had developped a coal dust powered RAM-Jet plane during WW2. It's interesting how all this desperate german wartime efforts pop up all over the place in the last couple of years.

Are we living in desperate times? You the judge.

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