Not that difficult

Boeing says it will make planes able to fly on 100% biofuel by 2030

It’s the engines that matter really, isn’t it, not the aircraft?

But it does rather point up a point. For some uses at least – and aviation seems an obvious one – it’s likely to be cheaper to synthesise the fuel from green starting points – say, green hydrogen – than it is to change the entire infrastructure and technology in use.

The interesting thing being whether that’s possibly true of cars……

15 thoughts on “Not that difficult”

  1. Tim

    You’ll be pleased to know someone is desperate for ennoblement even in an Independent Scotland and George Osborne advocates slavery

  2. The Germans learned how to make synthetic fuel about 90 years ago. Heather Willauer and her team at the NRL have extracted CO2 from the ocean’s surface where it’s in equilibrium with the atmosphere. Electrolysis to extract H2 from water is 19th century tech.

    If we were to generate all our power from nukes, we could also synthesise all the hydrocarbon fuels we need. The only real obstacle is the expense.

  3. In David Lean’s film The Sound Barrier, Ralph Richardson is showing Nigel Patrick his jet engine.
    “What does it run on?” Asks Patrick
    “Paraffin.” Replies Ralph

    It always made me smile that bit. I could just imagine the chief engineer nipping down to the local petrol station to top up with a a gallon can of Esso Blue when they ran a bit short.

  4. Depends on the goal. Running cars on biofuel will indeed be carbon-neutral; but it’ll do nothing for urban air quality. The latter is a more politically achievable goal than the former.

  5. I thought biofuel had been debunked as something which requires zillions of acres of monculture where food should be grown?

  6. The US Navy has a research program on how to use nuclear power to extract CO₂ from sea water and turn it into JP-4 (i.e. kerosene/paraffin, which the US military uses as a universal fuel). It’s fairly easy to do, provided you have a military budget. It’s a couple of orders of magnitude too expensive for civilian use.

  7. Bloke in China (Germany province)

    Why would you bother? Last I checked commercial aviation was responsible for 1.7% of global carbon emissions. The constant greenleft attacks on it are nothing more than old fashioned politics of envy. The latest World Fascomarxist Forum initiative that we should all eat cold mealworms will have far more impact.

  8. Hydrogen isn’t a good choice for aircraft. For the same energy content as jet fuel it takes up 3.4 times as much volume. You also need to keep it below -253C if you want it to stay liquid (i.e. dense) without storing it in hugely heavy pressure vessels. This is why the space shuttle had that huge external fuel tank insulated with foam which tended to fall off and cause damage.

  9. Aviation fuel comes from petroleum which comes from biological activity which occurred a long time ago and whose remains got squashed.
    So it’s already biofuel. Or have I missed some new rule: like we can’t chuck the waste bio-products of today into quarries and then cover them with builders’ rubble followed by soil and make nice parks.

  10. You can power a jet engine using pretty much anything that can burn – I seem to recall a successful experiment using very finely powdered coal – but the question is ‘how efficiently?’ And efficiency is a rather important factor when designing aircraft and their engines.

    Jet A-1 has to have many properties other than simply burning. In particular it needs to remain liquid at -47°C, as the pilots of BA38 discovered,

  11. I remember a time when there was an attempt to supplant the “bio” prefix with the more scientific “Closed Carbon Cycle” (CCC) prefix. Both for accurate descriptiveness, and because when it comes to energy-density and engineering only triple-C or higher carbon chains are practical as fuel.

    Of course, that particular name immediately puts the finger on some pretty big challenges when it comes to science, engineering, and economy with the whole scheme, so it never got off the ground.

    I wonder why.

  12. So Much For Subtlety

    Boganboy January 23, 2021 at 9:41 am – “The Germans learned how to make synthetic fuel about 90 years ago.”

    And South Africa used to run a plant or two. It is not hard.

    “If we were to generate all our power from nukes, we could also synthesise all the hydrocarbon fuels we need. The only real obstacle is the expense.”

    The last line is the key one. We can do a lot of things – if it was economically worth it. Saudi Arabia and the Iranian Revolution jacks up the price of oil and suddenly fracking and shale become economic. Which is nice. The question is why would we want to become poorer over a non-problem like Global Warming.

    Ottokring January 23, 2021 at 10:02 am – “I could just imagine the chief engineer nipping down to the local petrol station to top up with a a gallon can of Esso Blue when they ran a bit short.”

    Roger Moore does this in one of the James Bond films doesn’t he? He flies off in a mini-jet which pulls into a Brazilian petrol station or the like.

    Jet engines will run on a lot of things. Almost anything that will burn. Paraffin is just cheap and readily available. Although when I think of WW2 pilots who burned, I wonder if diesel might not have been the better choice.

    Perhaps the US could try to run a big plane on ethanol? That would please the mid-West. It worked for the V2 rockets.

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