Synthetic Diesel

Fischer-Tropsch Diesel

It doesn’t take much news study to know that the US consumes far more in petroleum products than it produces, thus we import petroleum to make products such as gasoline, diesel, jet fuel, and plastics. It takes even less news watching to know that petroleum is a hazard to extract and transport as seen by the Deepwater Horizon incident and the Exxon Valdez incident, respectively. It would be mighty helpful if we could use some of the United States’ vast resources, such as coal or natural gas, to make transportation fuel. It just so happens there is a way to do that. Two German scientists figured it out in 1923 and named it the Fischer-Tropsch process.

The problem with this process is that petroleum has been the best economical route to make transportation fuels. However, with rising crude prices and the inherent danger of deeper and more daring crude mining, this process is starting to seem more attractive. Classic Fischer-Tropsch synthesis is still not economically feasible though. That is because little research has been done on the catalyst that makes the process work.

Enter Louisiana Tech diesel research. Using nanotechnology, a new catalyst has been made that is corrosion resistant and produces nearly pure diesel. The nanofabrication process uses very little catalyst and thus drastically reduces cost to fabricate, both in terms of raw material and manufacturing equipment. Using this catalyst it is estimated that diesel can be manufactured from natural gas at roughly half the price that it can be refined from petroleum. Basically, instead of using dangerous-to-handle, mostly foreign petroleum, this catalyst enables automotive fuel can be made at a lower cost, using safer-to-handle, domestic natural gas.

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