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Coal-Based Jet Fuel

July 4, 2006

Good old-fashioned coal could revolutionize jet fuel.


Fueling jets with coal. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

In the near future, jet fuel could be derived mostly from coal. It may sound very 19th century, but Penn State University fuel scientist Harold Schoebert says airline pilots won’t be shoveling coal into a furnace.

HAROLD SCHOEBERT (Penn State University):
We are developing two processes, both of which would be able to make coal-based fuels in existing oil refineries with just minor modification to the refinery.

One mixes a coal by-product with the petroleum, while another adds solid coal and then separates out the liquid fuel. Schoebert says these hybrid fuels perform much like current military and commercial jet fuels, with comparable emissions. More importantly, they could be made almost immediately in existing refineries – which could buy time until renewable energy sources become commercially viable.

I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.