Fuel production systems for remote areas via an aluminum energy vector
July 29, 2018
Energy Fuels, Vol. 32, no. 9, 2018, pp. 9033-9042.
Autonomous fuel synthesis in remote locations remains the Holy Grail of fuel delivery logistics. The burdened cost of delivering fuel to remote locations is often significantly more expensive than the purchase price. Here it is shown that newly developed solid aluminum metal fuel is suited for remote production of liquid diesel fuels. On a volumetric basis, aluminum has more than twice the energy of diesel fuel, making it a superb structural energy vector for remote applications. Once aluminum is treated with gallium, water of nearly any purity is used to rapidly oxidize the aluminum metal which spontaneously evolves hydrogen and heat in roughly equal energetic quantities. The benign byproduct of the reaction could, in theory, be taken to an off-site facility and recycled back into aluminum using standard smelting processes or it could be left onsite as a high-value waste. The hydrogen can easily be used as a feedstock for diesel fuel, via Fischer-Tropsch (FT) reaction mechanisms, while the heat can be leveraged for other processes, including synthesis gas compression. It is shown that as long as a carbon source, such as diesel fuel, is already present, additional diesel can be made by recovering and recycling the CO2 in the diesel exhaust. The amount of new diesel that can be made is directly related to the fraction of available CO2 that is recovered, with 100% recovery being equivalent to doubling the diesel fuel. The volume of aluminum required to accomplish this is lower than simply bringing twice as much diesel and results in a 50% increase in volumetric energy density. That is, 50% fewer fuel convoys would be required for fuel delivery. Moreover, aluminum has the potential to be exploited as a structural fuel that can be used as pallets, containers, etc., before being consumed to produce diesel. Furthermore, FT diesel production via aluminum and CO2 can be achieved without sacrificing electrical power generation.