The US Air Force is studying the feasibility of a process developed by the carbon transformation company, Twelve that could convert CO2 into viable, fossil-free jet fuel called E-Jet anywhere on the planet. Separate from carbon capture and storage or carbon utilization, ground-breaking carbon transformation technology can turn carbon dioxide from the air into nearly any chemical, material, or fuel, including jet fuel.
The Air Force claims that the production of aircraft fuel from the air could be sustainable. It believes that Twelve’s current process, which also involves water and power from renewable energy sources, has the potential to be highly deployable and scalable, enabling the warfighter to access synthetic fuel from anywhere in the world.
The fossil-free fuel offers a drop-in replacement for petrochemical-based alternatives without any changes to the existing plane design or commercial regulations.
The US Air Force currently relies on conventional fuels to operate, both domestically and internationally. The Air Force must use a combination of trucks, aircraft, and ships to ensure fuel is delivered to meet warfighter demand. However, many areas of operation cannot always easily reach traditional access points of the supply chain, particularly during the conflict.
Twelve’s carbon transformation platform could allow deployed units to create fuel on-demand without the need for highly skilled fuel experts on site. The Air Force sees the opportunity for the technology to provide a supplemental source to petroleum-based fuels to decrease demand in areas that are typically difficult to deliver fuel to.
Twelve’s technology eliminates the need for fossil fuels, producing syngas by recycling CO2 captured from the air and – using only water and renewable power as inputs – transforming the CO2.
Twelve succeeded in demonstrating its technology and produced the fuel this August. It has now entered the next phase of the pilot project to create synthetic fuel in larger quantities. This phase will be completed in December 2021, with the results being further analyzed and assessed. If the technology proves reliable for military applications, it will mean that the USAF will potentially be able to produce synthetic fuel onsite without the need for coal, natural gas, or biofuel.
While there remain a number of unanswered questions to make this technology operational, such as how to power the production of the syngas in remote areas and where water sources for the necessary hydrogen will come from (Twelve notes that water for the process can also be captured from the air), the team sees this is a positive first step in a truly innovative program.