U.S. Navy researchers have invented a sustainable, environmentally friendly, and safe process for producing hydrocarbon fuel from seawater. The patented technology is available via license agreement to companies that would make, use, or sell it commercially.
The U.S. Navy uses over a billion gallons of liquid hydrocarbon fuel each year. This can involve fuel shipments over thousands of miles and many weeks of transport. Moreover, implementing fuel cells on ships requires a hydrogen carrier such as liquid hydrocarbon fuels that are extremely low in sulfur content since this contaminant will poison the fuel cell fuel reformer. However, using fossil fuels is becoming increasingly problematic because of ongoing political instability in oil-producing regions and the growing worldwide energy demand.
Fossil fuels are a limited resource that cannot be regenerated, and hydrocarbon fuels made from fossil fuels may contain highly undesirable sulfur, nitrogen, and aromatic compounds. When these fuels are burned, sulfur, nitrogen, and particulates are released into the air, which leads to the formation of acid rain and smog. There are several well-established processes for direct hydrogenation of gases such as CO or CO2 to produce hydrocarbon fuels, but they still require fossil fuels to produce the CO, CO2, and H2 used.
Navy researchers have overcome these challenges with a method and system in which the desired synthetic hydrocarbons are produced by reacting carbon dioxide, obtained from seawater or air, and hydrogen from water with a catalyst in a chemical process such as reverse water gas shift combined with Fischer Tropsch synthesis. The reverse water gas shift (CO2+H2→CO+H2O) produces carbon monoxide, which is reacted with hydrogen in the Fischer Tropsch synthesis to produce synthetic liquid hydrocarbons and water.
- The portfolio of patents can be licensed individually or as a suite and includes a method and apparatus to synthesize hydrocarbons via the catalytic reduction of CO2 and a unit for recovering CO2 from seawater or air, produce hydrogen, and synthesize both into hydrocarbons
- Does not require the use of fossil fuels in the process of generating hydrocarbons.
- Eliminates the emission of hazardous sulfur and nitrogen compounds produced by fossil fuels
- Businesses can commercialize the technology by licensing U.S. Patents 8,017,658, 8,435,457; and 7,420,004 from the Navy
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