The Attempt To Develop An Ecological Fuel From Seawater

In search of a carbon-neutral fuel, Foghorn’s team succeeded in creating it from seawater. Taking advantage of the abundance of hydrogen and carbon in the water. An effort to try to reduce the gases produced by transport.

What was the goal?

Transportation accounts for 97% of greenhouse gas emissions,  through the burning of fuel from airplanes, cars, trucks and other means of transportation. For this reason, executives of the United States Navy began to devise how to create fuel using seawater.

Seawater has a large amount of hydrogen and carbon, essential elements for the formation of hydrocarbons such as oil. It was proposed to combine these substances from the laboratory, in order to achieve a neutral fuel that would considerably reduce the emissions of polluting gases.

What was the process?

It all started in early 2014. The first step of the investigation is completed by creating a prototype of the system. Methanol is made from seawater. The feasibility of producing hydrocarbons is checked in a laboratory.

The team manages to fly an airplane with fuel created with salt water. The consistency and smell of this hydrocarbon is similar to that of kerosene that we all know.

Despite being a great achievement, there was a downside. The costs were extremely high and the fuel was not competitive when compared to the price of gasoline.

What were its advantages?

Achieving fuel development in this way would not only decrease greenhouse gases, the fuel could also be produced directly on board ships.

Another advantage is that there was no need to modify aircraft and ship engines to use hydrocarbon.

The experiment is considered a success. But they had to improve the generation technology in order to lower the cost of production.

Attempts to make the project profitable.

Initially, the cost of production was $10 per gallon (3.78 liters). A high cost to compete with gasoline. The team set out to achieve a maximum cost of $8 with the intention of bringing it to $5 in less than 5 years.

If this objective is achieved, the saltwater fuel would be profitable to position in the Nordic markets. Where the cost of gasoline is very high.

As the investigation continued, the team realized that to generate the necessary fuel they had to pump a significant amount of salt water. Which produced a great cost.

Without giving up, they began to search for a more economical source of hydrogen, coming up with solid oxide electrolysis. A technique that separates water into oxygen and hydrogen.

After many studies and meetings with experts in the field, the team concluded that achieving a cheap and reliable source of hydrogen would require a large capital investment and at least 5 more years of research.

What happened to the investigation?

In 2016, after two long years of work, it was decided to finish the project. For now, seawater fuel is not profitable. The current and projected cost of hydrogen is very high.

Hopefully one day all these technologies already developed can help build a better world.

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