Sunday, February 1, 2009

No Go for Air Force Coal-to-Liquid at Malmstrom

The Air Force is betting the house it can find non-oil forms of liquid fuel to power its planes, manned and unmanned. As you're probably well aware, over the past 18 months it has been busy certifying that the entire inventory is OK running on a mix of 50/50 JP8 and synthetic fuel derived from natgas. Having our planes be able to run on other other fuels is one thing, having enough of the alternate fuel to make a difference is quite another.

To that end, the Air Force had been trying to stand-up a plant to test the feasibility of turning coal into liquid fuel in high volume. Unfortunately, it appears that initiative is dead, at least for now. Here are the reasons the AF gave for why they decided to kill it, according to this Air Force Link article
  • Possible conflicts with the wing's mission, including degradation of security in the vicinity of weapons storage area; 
  • Interference with existing missile transportation operations; and,
  • Issues with explosive safety arcs and operational flight safety
What I'd like to know is: other than these issues, was the plant going to work? How much fuel was it going to make and how much would it have cost per gallon when all the costs of construction and operation were factored in? The reasons given for termination mask information on what the Air Force thought of the utility of this proposed facility. It's not a good sign.

No comments: