Converting sea water to Navy jet fuel

Navy scientists and researchers say they are close to a breakthrough toward turning seawater into jet fuel.

The U.S. Naval Research Laboratory is working to extract the carbon dioxide and produce hydrogen gas from the seawater. The key is then converting the carbon dioxide and hydrogen into hydrocarbons that can then be used to develop JP-5 fuel stock.

JP-5 is what fuels Navy jet fighters and results in multiple fuel transfers to aircraft carriers to maintain their onboard fuel stock. Producing that fuel from the abundant sea water would save the Navy from executing those sometimes risky transfers.

“The potential payoff is the ability to produce JP-5 fuel stock at sea reducing the logistics tail on fuel delivery with no environmental burden and increasing the Navy’s energy security and independence,” said Heather Willauer, a research chemist with NRL.

Navy officials estimate the process used to convert the seawater to fuel would cost the Navy between $3 and $6 per gallon.

Of course, this supposed breakthrough comes as the Republicans in Congress have fought against the efforts by the Navy to develop alternative fuels. Republicans claim the Navy can’t afford to attempt to create fuel out of seawater or cooking oil when the defense budget is getting slashed.

Navy and Marine Corps leaders have said they can’t afford not to considering the advances the Marine Corps has made in operational energy in Afghanistan.

About the Author

Michael Hoffman
Michael Hoffman is the executive editor at Tandem NSI and a contributor to Military.com. He can be reached at mhoffman@tandemnsi.com.
  • BlackOwl18E

    That would be awesome to have as a fuel source. That would have extreme tactical value as well. No underway replenishment for JP-5 creates much greater independence for our sea forces and the underway reps could then be used entirely for the purpose of transporting food and commodities. I usually vote red, but I think anyone who is against the Navy finding such technology must have some heavy stock in the oil industry and has their values misplaced. I love that picture too. Such a beautiful, well-designed machine.

    • DanS

      OK, I’m a lefty, semi-tree hugger. I walk and bike much more than I drive. But let me run this stat past you. The US has a horrible electric distribution grid and efficiency standards. If the US had the same standards as Europe does for his its home appliances and equal quality grid, we would not need to import a single ounce of oil. Its a national security issue, period. Getting off fossil fuels whenever possible, rebuilding the electric grid and increasing efficiency is the best long term thing we can do for the health of the nation.

      • MikeyB

        I’m a righty deficit hawk and i could not agree more. I was deeply saddened that this was not the number one priority for the stimulus money.

      • Musson

        Or – we could drill for our own gas and oil and let Canada send us their surplus – and then we let the Chinese worry about keeping the Gulf flowing.

        • chrisp

          Nice thought but no one else has the capability to keep the gulf flowing and if it stops so does the world economy.

      • tmb2

        I’m a little upset that a good chunk of this article’s text is devoted to bad-mouthing and singling out Republicans in Congress since they had a legitimate gripe. With shrinking budgets they didn’t think the Navy could afford to pay $40/gallon for biodiesel when the regular stuff is available at a fraction of the price and the Navy can’t afford to build and run the ships they want in the first place. There may be a payoff in investing in the biodiesel – an undetermined number of years from now. They have a right to be concerned about the upfront costs of this technology too if it’s going to be more than they can handle.

        If this stuff works and they can make it affordable, then I hope they succeed.

        • tiger

          Your right. The political flame was unneeded.

        • DAV

          Scientists will always flame the conservatives when given a public forum because no matter what we’re doing, we always have to fight against them every step of the way. Nothing has changed since the days when Galileo proved that the earth revolved around the sun, except that they’re no longer allowed to burn us at the stake for heresy.

      • Chuck

        Virtually zero imported energy is used in the U.S. electric grid. It’s overwhelmingly natural gas, coal, nuclear and hydro.

        • blight_

          Probably natgas, coal, hydro, nuclear, solar, wind in that order.

          • Ralph Martin

            Small correction: coal, nuclear, nat gas, hydro, wind, solar. The order of nat gas and nuclear will vary and probably flip permanently very soon and natural gas will displace coal in the next decade as well. Coal is quickly declining. Solar is essentially negligible and will remain so for at least a decade. Wind will overtake hydro soon.

          • blight_

            If the evil wikipedia can be trusted:
            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:2008_US_electri

            I guess it’s coal, natgas, nuclear, hydro, “other renewables” and finally the few oil-burners.

    • SEMPER FI

      the reason republicans are hesitant when it comes to the research and development in the navy and elsewhere in the arms services is because the democrats are cutting funding to the military as a whole. when funding is cut then so is R&D. its not that the big bad republicans want the navy to continue using fossil fuels for their personal gain as much as it is a consequence to losing funding for this type of stuff across the board. if the money that would be used to develop sea water based JP-5 could be used in something more critical, like oh you know, ships, jets, personnel, ammunition, security ect. then why not put the money there? this is experimental and a long way from perfection to make it worth while. in a time of defense cuts we cannot afford to put money into an imperfect product. This is what the republicans are saying. they are trying to protect the remaining, limited funds the navy has left. keep voting Red, it may be the last hope for our military as we know it!

      • Musson

        The reason the GOP is hesitant about R&D – Solyndra.

        • tiger

          Exactly. We are not anti science by any stretch. We don’t want it wasted on $100,000 Fisker sportscars and other adventures like Solyndra. This sounds as crazy as Alchemy. Or at least biblical………
          Water into fuel? OK, If they say so.

          • Ralph Martin

            You either lead technology by investing in fundamental R&D or you follow the leaders. It’s that simple. And yes, the GOP is anti-science. To be fair, so is a growing portion of the progressive wing of the DNC. For these groups science is not a method to understand the universe it is simply a tool that can be used or discarded. Not a very intellectually honest disposition.

            Nor can Solandra keep being presented as an argument against all government spending. The office of navy research can in no way be compared to the handout DoE program that loaned money to Solyndra. They are completely different and its only through deceptive pandering that they are in any way associated.

            Nor will I believe for an instant that the GOP stands for fiscal discipline. History simply does not bare that out, leading to the major apparent political paradox of our time: Fiscal conservatives maintain support for a party that has failed to live up to their primary issue for over 30 years.

        • blight_

          Solyndra’s technology is not fraudulent, it’s just that normal solar panels will always be cheaper, especially when made by the lowest bidder…you guessed it, overseas.

          As far as I can tell, the bankruptcy didn’t include Solyndra International, and Solyndra, while without any productive employees, is probably still in the process of restructuring while the USG tries to argue that the bankruptcy was due to the corporate guys lying to the government and will try to prevent them from wiping their hands clean of a half-billion of taxpayer money.

          And sadly, 500M in waste is pretty small compared to the hilarity on Allgov, which suggests that the USG doesn’t buy in bulk, or pays to “rent” containers from shipping companies, knowing full well it never makes sense to ship a container all the way back from Afghanistan, especially when it’s shot full of holes or is being used as storage on a FOB…
          http://www.allgov.com/news/where-is-the-money-goi

    • Richard Bunn

      The conservatives in Congress were upset at the $Kilo per gallon cost of biofuels for the tests the Navy did to varify that you could run a ship or fly an aircraft with the stuff. Congress is not populated by technically savy folks and when they see a program taht is spending 10 to 20 times the going rate of fuel for a biofuel project they believe it may be a waste of capital. Further, it would be in INDUSTRIES interest to develop biofuels or sea-water to fuel systems on the open market and sell it to us. Let industry take the risks and reap the rewards.

      • Jimbo

        Uh, it wasn’t the “conservatives” in Con-gress, it was their constituents that threw a fit over the price. We don’t want to pay exorbitant prices for faddish fuels.

        • UAVGeek

          New technology has to start somewhere. lest we forget that the Wright 1908 military flyer cost $720,000 in today’s money and could barely break 40MPH. By that logic we should have stuck with horses.

    • Pat

      Do you know how much energy it takes to split hydrogen from water? It’s not easy or cost effective at all. If it was we’d all have hydrogen powered cars.

      • UAVGeek

        Yeah but you got a nuke powerplant on board that ship that isn’t working anywhere near 100% capacity most of the time.

      • BlackOwl18E

        The cost of transporting the JP-5 to carriers adds to the amount it costs to use it. It would be much cheaper to just manufacture the stuff on board if possible. If there was a machine that could be configured to run on the nuclear reactor’s power supply that produces JP-5 it would be much cheaper since you wouldn’t have to pay for transporting it over great distances.

        I will also mention that a salt water to JP-5 conversion machine would also be much more affordable if we chose not to buy the F-35C, which costs $129 billion to acquire. (I know, I know, but I just couldn’t help myself) ;)

        • Dave

          yep, right as your SuperBug is obliterated by a J-11B

        • tiger

          The deletion of the fleet oiler is a bit of a leash on any operation. It sounds as crazy as something Hitlers guys would have worked on.

    • blight_

      If only we could go back to a nuclear navy…

      • dave

        sorry, the Greens HATE nuclear power more than they hate fossil fuels.

        • blight_

          Come and take it.

      • tiger

        Thumbs up. I think some would like us to rig up sails again.

    • FSalazar1962

      Yes, it is awesome, until Big Oil Lobbies Congress to put the technology under wrap and Congress does it.

  • Bob

    Does anyone understand what a game changer that would be, if true?

    If you can make a hydrocarbon-based fuel from seawater than the carrier in essence becomes an tanker for every ship in the battle group that uses a hydrocarbon based fuel for its engines. Like a Aegis cruiser which has jet turbines. Its just a jet fighter engine strapped to a chassis turning shaft to a gearbox.

    The question is the energy in equation. Does it require the reactor on the carrier to provide enough juice to operate the synthesizing machinery.

    Interesting on many fronts.

    • CEP

      I ran a shorebased seawater conversion plant as a Navy Seabee and of course we did Temp. airstrips & Fuel bladders for Marine Aircraft! You can bet if the Marines are doing alternate energy in Afghanistan, there’s SEA Bees “involved! :)”

      • CEP

        The COSTS will be more expensive than they’re stating and I’m sure the REACTORS will be used (as in desalinization) ~~the “flash” system from cooling seawater~~the “payoff”, of course, is more independence at sea!

  • DougieR

    That’s great for the Navy…but screw them why can’t we have this too! As with so many other technologies passed from the military to the civilian world such a technology could have world changing effects if it could be made cheaply and distributed widely enough.

    I for one welcome our new low-sulfur diesel economy…an end to reliance on OPEC and a Passat TDI in every driveway!

    • SJE

      We already have technology like this. South Africa used similar technology to make liquid fuel from coal when it was under embargo.

      We don’t use this technology because its far cheaper to use oil directly. By contrast, transporting JP-5 to a carrier is expensive, dangerous, and a weakness in combat. Under those situations, the extra cost of making your own JP-5 is worthwhile.

    • Ralph Martin

      Hell yes. Lets send all of our American dollars to Germany. Pure Genius…

  • IknowIT

    Yes- the amount of energy consumed will be the major issue and question. Doing things like this is usually total energy negative, at least so far. Also, I wonder how much space the distillation plant would take.

    On the other hand, if this is not energy negative, not sure why this wouldn’t have commercial implications outside of the military? Is this technology protected, and can the military lease it out?

    • Chuck

      Of course it’s energy negative. The Navy isn’t trying to rewrite the laws of thermodynamics, it’s trying to solve a logistical problem.

      But solving that logistical problem could have enormous military and civilian life, because it could solve the basic problem with reducing dependence on fossil fuels: the need for existing infrastructure. This technology holds the potential to use nuclear, wind, geothermal, solar, or whatever form of power, and create “fossil” fuels that could be distributed through our existing infrastructure.

    • davidz

      Such process would be very energy consuming, producing fuel from carbon dioxide and water is pretty much an inversion of burning process, so equivalent amout of energy is needed, possibly more because of inefficiences.
      Not that with nuclear power it’s an issue…

  • DGR

    Kinda suprised at the cost, thats not all that big of a savings. Still valuable from a standpoint of not having to stockpile fuel and reducing logistical requirments, but if the estimate is $6 you can rest assured actual cost will be closer to $8-$10 a gallon.

    • Shea

      Given that Jet A runs in the neighborhood of $5-6/gal, even $8-10 would be a HUGE cost savings for them. You have to take into account the transportation cost savings they would experience by manufacturing it “on-site”. Considering it costs the Army…wait for it…$400!!!! per gallon to fuel up vehicles in Afgani-land. $10/gal is nothing.

      • DGR

        That $400 a gallon is a myth. That news story grossly overcalculated the logistic tail required to get fuel into the AOR. We buy fuel from local contractors in the area, its not sent from the states anymore (like it may have been during the initial operation). I know that as of a few years ago we were purchasing JP-8 from local companies in Afghanistan for around $.25 a gallon. If the Army is still paying $400 a gallon for diesel (cheaper than JP-8), then you know what they say about not being able to fix stupid.

        Last I looked the Air Force was buying JP-8 for under $3.60 a gallon here in the states (at least in my area)……. It would almost be worth the money to ship gas back from the AOR.

        Edit: Just looked up the news that was $400 a gallon delivered to a remote post. That is 1000% differant than a main base. So ya by the time you air lift it out to a FOB you might hit $400 a gallon. However, the amount used at that level will be extremly low.

        • Curt

          It wasn’t even a remote post, it was fuel delivered by helicopter to a advanced refueling point, which was in turn being supplied from another advanced fueling point, to refuel helicopters for a raid. So figure something like 10 CH-47s to support a couple of H-60s. So the fuel for the H-60s (that were actually doing the mission) was $400 a gallon. Not a very common occurance. .

        • orly?

          I would consider a ship in the middle of the ocean a “remote post.”

          • Curt

            you would be wrong, it is in the middle of the biggest, cheapest, most efficient highway system ever.

  • Noha307

    Imagine what this could do from a damage control perspective as well.

    Enemy Ship Captain: Direct hit! Our missile has struck their aviation fuel supply! … What?! No explosion?!

    Enemy Lieutenant: Sir. It seems our missile impacted a compartment filled with seawater.

    ESC: I could’a sworn that’s where they’re fuel supply was. Hmmm…

    LOL!

    • blight_

      Unlikely. They won’t store seawater for conversion to jet fuel when they could just separate the CO2 from the desal water and convert it on the fly.

      And if you convert on the fly, you won’t have enough gallons left for CAP. It means they’re going to have to run the conversion 24/7 and store it somewhere…

  • Lance

    I dont trust this since sea water has too much junk and sea life to make it convert on the ship. I dont see it mostly environmental wish thinking.

    • Kevin

      You’re really stupid.. Ever heard of a filter?

    • David

      The reactors on ships and subs already use sea water for steam, drinking water, and air. So they have already been taking sea water out of the ocean and using it.

      • Lance

        Sorry but your idea of sucking sea water from the ocean from under a carrier is dumb enough bad chemicals and crap to screw a engine up your stupid and naive Kevin.

        • David

          And yet they already do just that Lance for drinking water no less, never mind jet fuel.
          http://science.howstuffworks.com/aircraft-carrier
          ” This includes an onboard desalination plant that can turn 400,000 gallons (~1,500,000 liters) of saltwater into drinkable freshwater every day — ”

          • David

            Why did it censor “salt water”?

          • Josh

            Haha it picked up “t.w.a.t.” from the two words.

          • David

            oh wow hilarious your right.

        • joe from tampa

          are you retarded LOL

    • https://www.facebook.com/tom.stevens.98837399 Tom Stevens

      “Too much junk and sea life” is (I suppose) another way of saying ORGANIC COMPOUNDS, which is the base material for oil/gas synthesis in the Earth.
      The more organic (carbon bearing) compounds dissolved in the water, the better. Remember, the goal is to create a hydrocarbon chain fuel ( Kerosene has more than one chemical structure because it contains carbons from 12 carbons to 15 carbons. The molecular formulas can range from C12H26 to C15H32. Other carbon-bearing compounds are added as well to make the final product) and you can’t easily do that from water (H-O-H) alone.

  • Musson

    Seawater contains up to 200 times the amount of Carbon Dioxide as air. So, that is why this could actually work.

    And, if we build a network of Molten Salt Liquid Thorium reactors (a walk away safe design) we could create liquid hydrocarbon fuel around the seawater on any coast in the World.

    • cloudshe

      since the epa says carbon dioxide is a pollutant (???) maybe the navy could get some Green credits for taking CO2 out of the water!

  • Jeff

    Maybe they gt it “working”. But how much do they have to take in to get a usable quantity out? Is it 1 gallon in 1 gallon out or 1000 gallons in for 1 gallon out? Will we be creating new waerfront property by reducing sea levels? Maye they can tout it as a way to combat he rising sea level due to global warming :)

    • jghj

      the fuel will be converted back to water as soon it will come in contact with hydrogen

      • Curt

        You meant to say a byproduct of JP-5 combustion is CO2 and H2O. No change to sealevel

    • Jeff

      Assuming they capture 100% of the CO2 from the seawater, and don’t lose any of that carbon, or accidently reprocess any of the old seawater they just extracted carbon from, it’s 25,143 gallons in for 1 gallon out.

      • Jeff

        That’s assuming seawater near the surface, which has a higher than usual CO2 content.

  • GET051

    Now if the Navy invests in fishing rods the Carrier Group will never have to come home!

    • SJE

      Except they will have to be sourced from Military Contractors, who will build them out of obscure alloys, networked to the main computers, and charge 1 million each.

  • Tad

    Perhaps even better is getting the hydrogen in the first place. That could be used in fuel cells to power the ships.

    Something tells me the devil’s in the details and this just won’t pan out, though, either as hydrogen for fuel cells or for JP-5 production. We’ll see.

  • Rip

    Show me the math guesstimate…how much volume per day @ how much energy in? Gallons seawater = barrels of JP-5? What would be the physical size of the machinery
    space to achieve a economic output? Gee, the mature plant will only take up 1/5th of the space available in a modern carrier.

    This will probably appear on a Popular Science cover soon….and be realized maybe in 2035, if ever.

    This is a typical, if wishes were horses, we all would ride, journalism story. There should be an annual award (like the Darwin) for the best tale of such ilk.

    • orly?

      Prototype is being reported as being 5 feet tall according to discovery.com, not sure about output.
      http://news.discovery.com/tech/navy-seawater-jet-

    • Tanker 6

      And golly gosh, Mr. Wizard, when the Navy succeeds in making $6 a gallon fuel from sea water, we’ll be able to use the pigs which come flying out of my butt to alleviate the bacon shortage! That’s what I call a win-win situation!

      • Chuck

        Well, it’s probably only $6 per gallon in the case where you’re using excess electricity from the already-built on-board nuclear reactor. If you didn’t have an only-partially-utilized reactor to strap it to, then it’s probably waaaaaay more expensive to make that fuel.

  • DShirley

    Hmmm….just like any other natural resource on this planet, sea water is “limited”…some may not think so in the short term, but the reality is….IT IS. We can convert sea water for drinking water, but in this instace how soon(if realized) before society becomes “wasteful”?? As indicated above, how much sea water would be consumed to get the energy required??? The sooner we get to renewable energy, the better. Let’s stop looking at ways to trash the environment, we should already be in a transition phase…let’s start pushing out more R&D $$$ to get there!!

    • DGR

      We talking about roughly 346 million trillion gallons of water here……. That would last us something like 20 million years, assuming we had the technology to create energy out of something and completly destroy it in the process (IE nothing gets vaporized, it is completly destroyed on the atomic level).

      • PJD

        He’s also forgetting that the burning process of JP-5 produces Carbon Dioxide and water. What you extract from the sea will return to it.

    • GGGGGG

      Please take chemistry. I beg of you. Specifically, how combustion reactions work.

    • joe from tampa

      you’re the kind of liberal that would have us all commit suicide because we inherently use resources. kill yourself first and lead by example, please.

  • Benjamin

    What chemicals would the ship need to carry to break down the water into hydrocarbons and make it into JP-5?

    Getting this done will drastically cut the costs of fuel for the Navy.

  • scooter

    Republicans are not deep thinkers and just live for the day and are selfish. Its like when you play chess certain people can only see one move ahead while some can see 5 to 6 moves ahead and already know what you would do in certain situation. Its sad to see that they let there primitive instinct for greed consume them. What is this world coming to.

    • Wing

      Democrats must be long term thinkers like having 16 trillion dollars debt and still want to spend more. Dems must be so smart that 4 years ago they forsee that today we are in 16 trillion debt and over 8% unemployment for the past 4 yeras, not to mention that the gas is over $3.5/gal

      • tee

        Agree the Democrats are long term thinkers, they have their “Dream Come True called Sequestration” about to take place and they will blame it all on the Republicans. They can’t buy a lot of votes with out all those “Social Progam Handouts” now can they?

        • SJE

          I call a pox on both their houses. Plenty of blame to go around

      • UAVGeek

        The national debt is a red herring. We could settle it with a stroke of a pen and change basically nothing fundamental about our economy. Debt and spending in America are a self imposed restraint.

        • cloudshe

          a commie idea if i ever heard one. “debt” is the only way the US has of balancing the production of the private sector against the consumption of the public sector, unless you have a better way of analyzing it

    • larrie

      Yes… Deep thinking Al Gore did indeed invent the internet …and didn’t Obama promise that if elected then he would cause the seas to recede?… If only we could harness all the hot air around Washington…

      • scooter

        Obviously those that did reply are the ones that when playing chess can only anticipate one move at a time.

    • scooter

      What is 16 trillion in debt when a country doesn’t have an end. Try and really think deep and you will see through debt.

  • Northener

    Okey this is only my estimate a educated ques in it’s best.Considering the fact that this ships has to distill it’s fuel on sight that would mean 3-4pieces at least 15 long distillation columns. (meaning easy to destroy target containing hydrocarbons).

    Cerium okside based reactor with FT process chambers can be fitted in couple of cargo containers easily. Electrolysis can can be done in space of your average car battery.That CO2 harvesting is still prototype phase but estimate is several cubic meters in second. However it can be stored so Co2 capture ratio can be reduced and produced in slower scale and taken use when needed.

    Economical = not in my life time
    Doable = depends about speed of development co2 separation from seawater
    Wise = Well let’s leave folks with uniform to decide.

    Written by someone who knows something of Chemistry

    • EW3

      Fortunately we have a handful of posters that have knowledge of hard science (I’m a physics major).

      It’s humorous to see the bipolar nature of posts.
      One one hand you have people who believe in anything green.
      On the other we have people who understand the laws of thermodynamics.

      Sadly, both sides votes count equally.

      • Northener

        Agreed. Mine is from the organic chemistry. The most humorous thing is that this system uses wast amounts of nuclear power and people somehow seem to be thinking it’s green and somehow it could be used in large scale fuel production on land. This merely solves minor logistical issue of obtaining fuel for fighters if even that.

    • SJE

      CO2 harvesting can be done through reduced pressure/ raised temperature, such as harvesting from the cooling stream out of the turbines. Alternatively, the USN could carry carbon, e.g. coal.

      A better source would be destructive carbonation of waste products generated on board, although you also have to deal with variable input streams and contaminants. Think of it: our jets run on sailor’s sh**t

      • Northener

        Well if you would know about FT process and how it works major cost is gas purification and that is if I correctly remember last budget meeting it was 2/3 of plants overall cost.

        And on more things that would require tons of hazardous chemicals to be stored on board. the beauty of this current system that as long as reactors keep producing power we would have hi-purity materials (altough in small quantities)

        • SJE

          Are you looking at the economics for FT process based on natural gas? Costs differ depending on feedstock. For gasified waste streams there is certainly a problem of variability and contaminants.. The question is the increased purification costs and complexity versus availability of feedstock. e.g., you can use thermal decomposition for direct production of CO and H2.

        • str8testshot

          Could it be possible to harvest the CO2 from gas turbine exhaust in the surface fleet? of course we would have to avoid over pressure of the exhaust but would see additional benefit from cooling it. if we are talking next generation why not power Jet turbines on hydrogen alone; by pushing forward the fuel cell issue.
          I’m no Chemist nor physicist just a Turbine Guy

          • blight_

            Even if you could get enough CO2 from exhaust, how would you ship it to a carrier?

            The concentrations in the ocean are probably greater and present a more plentiful stockpile if recovery is required.

    • joe from tampa

      you don’t know much apparently, because this is economical now; because it’s a nuclear reactor with nothing better to do anyway, it’s doable now because we can already purify seawater into hydrogen and oxygen at a rapid pace and our nuclear submarines do that every hour of every day, and it’s wise because it gives our ‘folks in uniform’ the flexibility to do ther jobs effectively.

    • Chris

      Did you see the pictures of the machinery they have already built? Looks to be pretty compact. The spec paper also claims only a small amount of electricity is required.

  • Andrew

    I imagine its doable, because they’ve got a nuclear reactor on-board. So even if its energy-negative, its not a problem as long as those fuel rods are working.

  • Jerry

    Game changer for the entire global economy, not just the Navy, if this can be done in a cost-effective manner. If you can make JP-5 out of seawater, surely you can make the military’s universal fuel–JP-8–out of seawater, too. For that matter, if it’s cheap enough, there’d be a huge incentive to convert all manner of civilian internal combustion engines to burn JP fuel, too.

    • Curt

      JP-5 can be converted to JP-8 with a pen. JP-5 and JP-8 will also run in a diesel engine better than your typical diesel fuel. If you can make synthetic kerosene, you make synthetic gasoline even easier.

      Now if you can get the cost of the Nuclear powerplant or other source of power down to say free, which it is effectively for the navy (its not free but it is already paid for to move the ship, launch aircraft, keep the lights on, etc), you would have a viable technology for the civilian market.

      Sorry, no commercial application.

  • Pit Snipe

    There is something most all of you are forgetting about the concept of utilizing sea water for fuel. One of the byproducts from production is pure H2O (either from production or as exhaust vapor). This is a good thing. A large portion of a Navy ship’s machinery rooms are utilized for producing potable water for the crew, steam for cooking in the galley’s and creating electricity for the ship’s functions. These systems already convert sea water for these uses and countless others. This concept could not only produce fuel for aircraft, the Marine’s landing craft, and for utilization of the ships themselves, but could improve the efficiencies of the already existing purification plants while utilizing many of the otherwise wasted byproducts.

    Hydrogen is the most abundant element known to man, its biggest problem is stability when it is not combined with another element (so throw the fuel cell idea out the window, to volatile for a war ship to store). But breaking down the hydrogen molecules out of sea water would be extremely effective because you would not have to add a catalyst to the mix, at the sodium in the salt water serves the same purpose. The incorporation of the proper amount of carbon molecules will be the tricky part that I am sure our government figured out how to do a long time ago. Make hydrogen from water? That’s so simple that is is taught in high school chemistry (sometimes as early as Jr. High). The biggest hold up is foreign oil. This concept could serve more of a purpose than just fueling our military fleet, it could also obliterate our dependance on foreign oil while supplementing the Defense Budget… Navy makes fuel for civilians. Navy sells fuel to civilians in USA only. Navy creates residual income of monumental proportions. Our defense budget is better off… less money out, more money in, win-win, you see?

    • DShirley

      Good laydown, but if this tech was developed on a global scale to revolutionize life for 6 plus billion people…..what is the demand on sea water????

    • Frnak

      I love it way to see it that way :)

  • indianmedicine

    It is only impractical if you are a Democrat, otherwise you would see it being pushed through. PIT SNIPE. thanks for the Explanation for us Non-Chemistry Types – makes sense & understandable.

  • dave

    Seems like this is just a story to slam Republicans. If this technology exists it won’t be the Navy, it will be civilian scientists finding the way to convert seawater.

    • Robert W Sullivan

      Are you saying all those very educated folks in the Navy do not have the intellegence to create something like this?

      Just how many PHD’s do you think there are in the US Navy? I’m guessing about 500% more than you give that service credit for.

      And then where do you think these guys and gals are going when they are out of uniform. What a mental midget you are!

  • votes blue and red

    Let’s be honest, both political parties are beholden to corporations that put their financial interests ahead of the security of the USA. When the power brokers who throw money at both parties have little personal investment in the services – how many bankers and Wall Street money men (and women) have combat tours on their personal resumes? – should we be surprised at their willingness to turn defense decisions into another stick with which to beat their political opponents. When business or political mythology clashes with science, engineering and technology, why is mythology champeoned? Because mythology drives emotional responses that are much more politically useful than analysis and rational thinking. It’s all fine and dandy to argue that we can just build wind mills, or that there is no global warming, but the scientifically evident truth is that we have a high energy economy that is reshaping the climate in ways that threaten our long-term security. If your mythology is threatened by alternatives to oil pumped out of the ground, you vote against development of technologies that are beneficial to both civilian and defense applications.

  • http://www.hcp.kk5.org Brian Black

    Civilian nuclear powerstations don’t respond well to peaks and troughs in demand. Might this technology allow a powerstation to switch its electricity output to a neighbouring fuel plant at times of low customer demand?

    It may not be cost-effective to set up commercial nuclear-powered sea-water refineries around a nation’s coasts, as has been suggested; but countries which produce a high proportion of their electricity from nuclear energy, such as France, could potentially use their network’s over-capacity at times of lower demand to power similar fuel plants.

    • Former Navy Nuke MM

      Civilian nuclear power stations are base load plants and are not subjected to the changes in power that the Navy nuclear power plants see. A Navy reactor has plenty of resource left and is easily changed during load changes.

  • Bart

    You just know the chinese will get this done before us.

  • Dfens

    There is no better way to fund terrorism than buying oil. It financed the war against us in Iraq and Afghanistan, and paid for the “Arab Spring” as well. Too bad oil dependence has become a political football. It is really an issue of patriotism.

  • PolicyWonk

    Wow – the republicans are openly standing in the way of our nations energy independence while openly claiming to support the military?

    It ironic that the Joint Chiefs of Staff and DoD consider energy independence to be a matter of national security – only to be opposed by the party that for decades tried to convince people of their superiority of leadership during wartime, etc (I suppose the botched Iraqi and Afghan campaigns put that to rest).

    I guess that article in last month’s issue of Forbes was right: the democrats are now the party to look to for leadership in matters of national security and defense.

    My, but how the world has changed.

    • blight_

      The Neocon record isn’t a pleasant one, and represents an ironic flipflop from the anti-peacekeeping stance of the ’90s.

  • Roland

    I’m all for it. Just make the cost low than the price of oil.

    • Roland

      And make the engine anti rust proof.

      • Roland

        I mean rust proof. Pardon my bubble.

  • mindmedic

    Gee! check out this article… http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/tech/science/envir…. Several farmers and some agricultural companies have been developing hydrogen producing technology for the last several years. Remember (you old guys) the stories about someone developing a carb. that turned water into fuel. Well guesse what? Maybe those stories were or will become true. The theory is simple, run an electric current through water (with or without salt) and you split the H2O into its component atoms (oxygen and hydrogen.) It gets more complicated after that but it can and is being done. This is not new technology.

  • Roland

    This are old inventions. Some country already invented it. Country like the Philippines invented a water powered engine. Check :http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UVhXrvCCILw

  • MindMedic

    second comment….

    Why are they trying to create hydrocarbon fuel when pure hydrogen is not only a great fuel but is environmentally much cleaner (primary waste product is water.) My understanding is that the main issue remains compression for storage. There has also been some work around the use of Hydrogen Peroxide. Go do some reading about Germanies liquid fuel research in the 30’s and 40’s. H2O2 is a viable alternative but does have its environmental issues…

    • Thomas L. Nielsen

      And if you think a big tank of compressed hydrogen is a safety issue, try a big tank of concentrated H2O2. “Environmental issues” doesn’t even begin to cover it.

      Regards & all,

      Thomas L. Nielsen
      Luxembourg

  • James T. Kirk

    Bah, enough with this Buck Rogers stuff! I’m sticking with my trusty dilithium crystals!

  • Curt

    Gee, how many ways to distort the truth in one article.
    1. It potentially supplements JP-5 supplies on the CVN. There is no where near enough power on the carrier to totally replace JP-5 from other sources. Read the quote.
    2. Although this iis alternate energy, it is not even slightly related to biofuel purchases (the topic of the linked article)! Being opposed to spending $24 gallon buying BIOfuels and basic research into liquid fuel from nuclear power that only makes sense in a naval application is completely different! Why should DoD be the lead for Biofuel purchases? Although it is the largest government user of fuel, it is a miniscule fraction of the market..
    3. This is converting nuclear power (no Bio here) to liquid fuel and more importantly it is basic research. And the $3-$6 per gallon? That assumes that the electricity (the most expensive part of the process by far) is free! The economics only makes sense for the Navy, and only on Carriers. That kind of research is why we have NRL.

  • L Berry

    What hogwash…Scientists have for years tried to find an economical way to produce Hydrogen. A lot of effort has been expended towards the end goal of clean and abundent fuel sources. The hydrogen engine to propel aircraft has been a dream product. But after billions, if not trillions in research, all of a sudden the navy has found the solution. They will extract teh nitrogen in sea water. Yes, we have oil leaks all under the sea, but the percentage of oil to water is so low it is mind boggling to think of how many millions of gallons would be required to extract just a gallon of JP-5.
    But the navy has been buying biofuel at $7-10 gallon so they aren’t dependent upon foreign oil. PS, JP5 was $3.50 at the same time.
    I guess common sense is one thing the Navy can’t buy.

    • Curt

      you obviously didn’t get the part about how you extract CO2 from seawater with a catalyst and electricity, then combine it with H2 from electrolysis (more electricity), a catalyst, and a bunch more electricity to form short chain hydrocarbons, then with still another catalyst and still more electricity, you form the short chain hydrocarbons into long chain hydrocarbons to make, for lack of a better term, synthetic kerosene. Blend in 2pct or so additives and voila, JP-5. Hydrocarbons from seawater!

  • Kevin

    And next month, they’ll make a cruise missile out of a government issue ink pen!! BS…..

  • NorthAsh

    Nothing like politicians putting the good of the defense of the Realm first. I mean, they wouldn’t be concerned about any loss of income to the oil compmanies ahead of an enormous advantage to the Navy would they! No politician would ever bow to big business and against the well being of the country!

    • TOBROX

      SEVERAL TIMES IN THE PAST THE RIGHT WING HAS TRIED TO SELL THE NAVEL RESERVE OIL FIELDS. THEY CHASE THE $$$ AND SCREW THE COUNTRY.

  • Roland

    The country”s criteria for clean energy should be cost free, cost effective and environmentally friendly. These criteria for clean energy will help boost the country’s energy requirements and economy. It will substitute foreign oil dependency, create jobs, boost country’s security and help the economy.

  • Michael J. Keenan

    The entire process is energy negative, i.e., it will take more energy to make the fuel than we will get from the fuel. The main reason seems to be to avoid hazardous conditions during ship-to-ship fuel replacement. We have been doing this with carriers for 80 years without major incidents. There is no safety rationale for
    continuing this project that justifies the projected costs.
    This is interesting chemistry, but economically unsound.

    • blight_

      I don’t think anybody is disputing the energy cost to distill jet fuel from hydrocarbons synthesized de novo from carbon dioxide and hydrogen extracted from seawater. Both steps are require energy inputs to get ahead-but the gain is supposed to be for national security.

    • Curt

      All energy extraction is energy negative, thats just one of the laws of Thermodynamics. The question is how to turn one source of energy into another at an economically viable price. For instance, if I can convert one ton of coal into 1 barrel of oil, it makes sense even if it is energy negative if one barrel of oil is more economically valuable as one ton of coal. In this case, power that already exists in the form of nuclear fuel rods that would otherwise be lost is converted into JP-5.

      The rational has nothing to so with safety. Zip, zero, nada. It is a way to utilize something that is relatively abundant (nuclear generated electricity on a CVN) and low cost (for this analysis the reactor, people, fuel rods, etc are all sunk costs so essentially free) to make something of value (JP-5). As long as you don’t expend the fuel rods before the ship reaches its service life, you come out ahead even if you use ten times as much energy as you get back. As long as the marginal cost of producing the fuel is less than the value of JP-5, it makes sense.

  • conrad

    Anyone who thinks we can get enough ,affordable, JP5 from sea water to fuel the jets is someone I have a gold brick to sell. this is pure “Junk Science”!

    • ROBROX

      This whole science is possible if the right wing does not block the research.
      We would still be using coal if not for progress which is not what the right wing likes for the military or the country.
      I spent 34 years with DOE and we should have had fusion if it was not blocked by the right wing and oil and coal!!!

  • RogCol

    Anyone that has served aboard a Nuclear submarine, knows that we have been turning sea water into hydrogen and oxygen for decades. if you have the excess power to do so, First you do not use sea water, you distill it into pure water. dumping the excess brine over board and using the pure water for a variety of purposes. Part of this pure water forms the acceptable form of water for the splitting process. The oxygen is kept on board and the hydrogen, due to its explosive nature is pumped overboard. Not to mean that oxygen is not dangerous in it’s own right. Check on the USS Sargo. If we can develop engines that can run on CNG, this should be a possibility, given the power to produce it.

  • Robert House

    One large item I see that has been overlooked is: What will happen to sea life when this sea water is distilled and returned to the ocean? When some agent of the water is taken out, some sea life has to be affected. Anybody?

    • blight_

      We’ll always be putting plenty of CO2 back into the oceans. Not worried about it.

      As for the water, when the water is distilled it goes somewhere. People drink it, and excrete it, goes back to the ocean. Do laundry, waste drains to the ocean.

    • Papi1960R

      Not overlooked. Not even in the equation. Sure some Environmentalist will be yelling. They are a bain on society.

      • ROBROX

        You have a little brain and will never undrrstand simple science.

        Your kind does not like progress since it takes us away from the dark ages your type came from.

        Progress will be made since the navy went from sails, to coal, to oil, to atomic.

        At each step there were your kind who did not support PROGRESS which is a bain with your society.

  • Andy

    The politicians won’t back it, even if it is possible. Why, just remember who funds their campaigns, companies like Exxon, Mobil, etc.

  • Kevin A

    Hmmm… What to do with the waste salt? When it rains, it pours?

    • blight_

      Dump it back into the ocean, most likely.

      We have no problems putting things back into the ocean….

    • PIT SNIPE

      Ummm…. it gets dumped back into the sea to be redissolved by the pure water that comes from the exhaust of the vehicles/craft utilizing the technology, and helps to keep the saline ration in the oceans stable as the glaciers and ice caps naturally melt away dumping excess fresh water into the seas… the “waste salt” gets returned to where it came from to be reused by the environment that depends on it.

      The phrase “Dee-De-Deee” comes to mind here….

  • dubweiser101

    This is a great achievement if they can make it work. I wonder why they can’t figure out how to convert salt water into gas for my car… I’d save thousands of dollars a year!

  • Old Sailor

    You had me until you started saying Republicans had a hand in this NOT happening. You people should keep the damn politics out of your reporting unless of course you can’t afford to hire REAL unbiased JOURNALISTS.

    • ROBROX

      I remember it is always the REPUBLICANS who were trying to sell the navel petrolium reserves to their FRIENDS during the 80 and 1900. Plus REPUBLICANS are not progressive and they do as their masters the oil and others bid them to do.
      If this works the whold world would be better and more happy which is not what REPUBLICANS ever want things to be ever.

  • Matt

    Now if we could just replace the flight deck with Solar Panels, we might be getting somewhere…

  • RS1

    This is in NO WAY comparable to wasteful and ill-conceived uber-expensive and completely unneeded green biofuel from algae and vegetable oils.

    The mere mention of responsible Republican attempts to shut down these idiotic ideologically driven projects has no place in a professional blog.

    I would also suggest that harvesting biomass from the sea and converting it to carbon might be easier and cheaper than trying to extract a few hundred PPM from the atmosphere.

  • http://twitter.com/peppermint6789 @peppermint6789

    This is a great idea, they already have plenty of nuclear energy, the next carriers are going to need overpowered reactors to launch the airplanes with electromagnetic catapults, and they also anticipate lasers and railguns. So this is a great idea to soak up any excess capacity.

  • Jim

    I think we’ve all seen enough to know that our political leadership would never spend public money on a program like this if they thought it had a snowballs chance of working…oil execs wouldn’t like it.

  • Red

    How much civilian potential does this have?

    • Curt

      Zero, until oil gets an order of magnitude more expensive. It only works because the electricity is for all intents free.

      A civilian parallel would be a far offshore windfarm or a mid-ocean thermal power system. You have lots of electricity but no way to move it onshore. So you make it into liquid fuel instead and ship it in tankers. However, the maintenance and upkeep of the wind farm would still make it very expensive.

      On land, if you could use Carbon capture at a coal or natural gas plant and had abundant and excess electricity from wind or solar, this would be a way to store that electricity as a liquid fuel. Still probably far more costly than alternatives.

  • SCPO

    Navy submarine O2 generators produce Hydrogen and O2 from sea water in their O2
    generators. The Hydrogen is pumped overboard. Carriers are nuke powered in case you are wondering or just did n ot know.

    Nothing new here except on a much bigger scale. MMCS(SW)(SS)

    • blight_

      The H2 is just half of the equation. The other half is persuading resonance stabilized carbon dioxide to become a hydrocarbon that can be burned in a jet engine.

      • Curt

        Which is where the new catalysts come in, which was the point of the origonal article anyway. ONL had found a new catalyst to make the process more efficient. You wouldn’t really know that from the post though.

    • PIT SNIPE

      Thanks Senior, apparently logic eludes most of the folks commenting here.

  • Francisco Almiral

    It thing needs a century plus of development…

  • Jon

    We develope it spending trillions of dollars and China, Russia and the rest of the world steals the info and technology for free…

    • Thomas L. Nielsen

      That’s because of the well-known fact that only the US is capable of innovation. Well-known fact, I tell you. Seriously! /sarcasm off/

      Regards & all,

      Thomas L. Nielsen
      Luxembourg

      • blight_

        Poles and their bomba, British and their ray-dar…what do they know?

  • bbb

    Build a new class of nuclear-powered fuel plant ships, add hydroponics and fishing capability to the rest of the ships, and a battle group could operate independently for years…. in theory. The human factor is still a big issue though.

  • Roland

    These tech/ green energy and other low cost green energy should be share and manufactured / produce nationwide with american citizen entrepreneur public and private section at affordable price per gallon for the public. These are the only way we can become independent on foreign oil , create revenue for the country, lower the national dept, lower energy cost and create jobs nation wide.

  • Glockster20

    Yet the Army is changing its combat uniform and now talking about changing its ASU and PT Uniform. At cost of how many Billions of dollars. Yet they do not want to spend money on this project.

  • George

    This must be for real, because Obama’s not investing in it.

  • Chief Boring

    If I remember my old schooling, water is a finite resource. It is cycled through the evaporation to rain process. If we convert significant amounts of sea water to other elements, we will untimately reduce the amount of water circulating through the earth’s ground and atmosphere. We can’t drink jet fuel! Carried to an extreme, our fleet would become small islands. The oceans seem endless, but they are not.

    • blight_

      When the hydrocarbon is combusted, the net products of the reaction are carbon dioxide and water.

    • bbb

      Fresh water is a finite resource, but sea water is for all practical purposes unlimited. Also, there is no converting of elements, they’re simply extracting hydrocarbons from it. It takes nuclear fusion or fission to convert elements. You can’t actually destroy water… you can only break it down into hydrogen and oxygen, which if burned turn back into water.

  • army

    well if an enemy submarine hit the tube leading to the water and they didn’t have any other fuel then they would run out of fuel and we would lose.

    • blight_

      If we lost water intake, then the water for drinking, reactor coolant and to power the steam catapults is…gone.

      • Glarg

        Your mom.

  • fac

    note to everyone, this is NOT HHO, nowheres NEAR HHO, it simply extracts hydrocarbons from seawater, then the hydrogen, and recombines to a simple kerosene type jet fuel. it does not create HHO, also known as browns gas.

  • RCDC

    Just do it. And let us know if it is successful, if it can help the economy and the country.

  • Guest

    One of many programs put forth on alt fuels. How many of the others are this promising? Most of the boondoggles on alt fuel never pay off and never have a chance of paying off unless measured in terms of payoff to the “Friends” of this corrupt administration. Way to provide a partisan hack point of view.

    “Of course, this supposed breakthrough comes as the Republicans in Congress have fought against the efforts by the Navy to develop alternative fuels. Republicans claim the Navy can’t afford to attempt to create fuel out of seawater or cooking oil when the defense budget is getting slashed.”

  • Peter Harrison

    See http://www.airfuelsynthesis.com .

    We are making petrol with CO2 from air , or any other CO2 source, and Hydrogen from water.

  • pi511

    who is enemy? they produce their own enemies.

  • xxx_yyy

    Hey, folks:

    Did you ever hear about conservation of energy?

    This is junk science.

  • plonker mad

    what a load of baloney
    try asking them how they do it and youll hear complete silence.
    NB there is no energy in sea water except a bit of plankton.
    In australia we call it “pulling the plonker”

    PS is this a joke magasine?

    • Thomas L. Nielsen

      Please read the article and check that your brain is in “D” before operating the keyboard.

      Regards & all,

      Thomas L. Nielsen
      Luxembourg

  • dundonrl

    I don’t see how you can make a fuel from salt water, considering the composition of it..

    O (oxygen) = 85.84%
    H (hydrogen)= 10.82%
    CL (chloride) = 1.94%
    Na (sodium) = 1.08%
    Mg (magnesium) = 0.1292%
    S (sulfer) = 0.091%
    Ca (calcium) = 0.04%
    K (potassium) = 0.04%
    Br (bromine) = 0.0067%
    C (carbon) = 0.0028%

    • Thomas L. Nielsen

      “I don’t see how you can make a fuel from salt water,….”

      Well, if you actually tried reading the article it might help (hint: Carbon Dioxide).

      Regards & all,

      Thomas L. Nielsen
      Luxembourg

  • http://twitter.com/undefined @undefined

    When the writer of this article conflates the subject of the article and “fuel from cooking oil” it tells me all I need to know about his intelligence. They are two completely different subjects. One involves keeping warships at sea longer without resupply – a good thing leading to tactical advantages – while the other involves pie-in-the-sky greenie nonsense. Blaming Republicans for having common sense by resisting efforts to run military equipment on french fries shows how desperate the writer is to insinuate his political bias into his stories. As someone already pointed out, nobody is claiming that jet fuel from seawater will save money. It will cost more energy to produce the stuff than will be realized in the resulting fuel… but luckily aircraft carriers have a handy nuclear reactor on board. This isn’t “green” technology, dude.

    • Chris

      This is all part of the same strategy. The Navy wants biofuels so they can be generated locally. If a base can create it’s own fuel from algae etc then that is a huge plus. The Navy was not as you say “running on french fries” but was testing in a battle situation that ability for biofuels to perform well as a drop-in substitute. The Republicans unfortunately did not like the military looking for ways out of the chain of using fossil fuels and get a little testy. Don’t think the author was off in linking these efforts. I am sure once some Texas congressman hears about this he’ll denounce it and want to cut funding claiming this isnt the place of the military (wrongly of course)

  • ROBROX

    When I was in the navy on a destroyer we refueled a gun boat which was 150 feet with one 3 inch gun. I finished my “A” school in avionics and saw many jets refueled by GRAPES.
    I read about this development and it is ENGLISH. Sodium hydroxide and carbondioxide or monooxide is mixed to produce the fuel. During a 3 month period 20 gallons were produced. The next phase is to produce more fuel in a shorter time.
    The oil companies do not like this since who would need oil? Therefore by definition the right wing will not like a cheap fuel that makes everyone HAPPY. This would also level out an energy demand and the whole world would be HAPPY and the right wing would be so MAD with less sadness and hate in the world.

  • Paul G

    Since this is a technical blog, I am surprised to see no real technical analysis of this idea. Assuming unlimited energy from a reactor, there is no doubt some way to use some of that energy to synthesize hydrocarbon fuel out of something. But this type of process always loses energy and has no particular commercial value unless all the recoverable geologic oil is gone – which is hardly the case. It could potentially save the Navy from schlepping oil around but I doubt if the reactors in a single carrier really have that much to spare. Sounds like a boondoggle to me.