Synthetic Fuel Advantages and Disadvantages as Energy Source

Synthetic fuel infographics

Energy - Synthetic fuel infographics Alternative Energy Synthetic Fuel Pros and Cons

Advantages Manufacturers claim the following benefits for synthetic oils: Improved  viscosity at low temperatures. Mineral oils tend to include wax impurities which coagulate at lower temperatures. A typical 10W-30 oil remains liquid at -50 °C  (-58 °F) * Better high temperature performance. Synthetic oils have few low molecular weight hydrocarbons which evaporate at high temperatures. Higher purity, Decreased oil consumption, Reduced friction and engine wear, Improved fuel consumption through better engine lubrication, Longer intervals between oil changes, Resistance to oil sludge problems, Crude oil doesn’t have to be used for the production of the lubricants

Disadvantage of synthetic oils is that they cost significantly more than mineral oils. The manufacturers of synthetic oils argue that this is offset by an extended working life. As synthetic oils tend to be more fluid they are also more prone to leak through worn seals.Many argue that the advantages of synthetic oils are only significant in high performance applications such as motor racing and aviation, road haulage, or for general lubrication in extreme environments.

synthetic fuel advantages and disadvantages

Examples of synthetic fuels

  • Hydrocarbon liquids for transportation
  • Low-sulfur, low-ash solid or liquid boiler fuels
  • Substitute natural gas
  • Methanol
  • Hydrogen


Convert an abundant fuel from one form (e.g. solid) into a form required by existing infrastructure (e.g., liquids). Clean up the fuel during conversion, e.g. reduce sulfur. Coping with “peak oil” and the geopolitics of oil availability.

Conversion of coal into synthetic liquid fuels

A principal “driver” is to provide liquid fuels for transportation. Solid fuels seldom, if ever, work in internal combustion engines. Particularly important are liquid fuels for aviation. At the same time, the conversion allows for reduction of sulfur, ash, trace metals, and other potential pollutants.

Coal to liquids strategies

Indirect liquefaction: gasification followed by conversion of gas to liquids. Direct liquefaction: hydrogenation of coal The “middle way:” Penn State coal-torefinery processes Other minor approaches, e.g., coal pyrolysis.

Synthesis of hydrocarbons

The dominant route from synthesis gas to hydrocarbons is via the Fischer-Tropsch reaction(s), e.g.: (2n+1) H2 + n CO → CnH2n+2 + n H2O (n+1) H2 + 2n CO → CnH2n+2 + n CO2. In principle, any hydrocarbons conventionally obtained from petroleum can be produced by FT synthesis, from CH4 to high molecular weight waxes. Exact product distribution depends on CO/H2 ratio, temperature, pressure, and catalyst.

he iso-FT synthesis

Designed to produce branched-chain hydrocarbons. Typical operating conditions: 400–500°C, 10–100 MPa (1400–14,000 psi), ThO2 or ThO2/Al2O3 catalysts. Yields predominantly isoparaffins; as temperature is increased, also forms aromatics (both are good for high-octane gasoline).

Methanol synthesis

An alternative to the production of liquid hydrocarbons is the synthesis of methanol: CO + 2 H2 → CH3OH. Methanol has very high octane number (≈108). Some feel it could be very attractive as a future liquid fuel. But: methanol is highly poisonous, infinitely miscible with water, and has half the volumetric energy density of gasoline.

synthetic fuel production

Carbon-neutral synthetic fuel: A goal for automotive manufacturers experiencing firmer requirements

Bosch states synthetic fuels have possibility to slow the discharge of CO2 in to the atmosphere.

synthetic fuels are made from

In a white paper released this month, German auto parts maker Bosch argued for increased development of carbon-neutral synthetic diesel and gas—that is, fuel made from carbon dioxide and (ideally renewable) electricity. Such fuel emits carbon dioxide when it’s burned, but it also captures carbon dioxide as it’s being made, so it’s considered carbon neutral. Bosch researchers said moving to synthetic fuel could prevent the release of an additional 2.8 gigatons of CO2 in Europe between 2025 and 2050.

Synthetic fuels aren’t anything new, but they’re far more costly to produce than fossil-fuel-derived oil and gas. Fischer-Tropsch diesel is one kind of synthetic fuel that can be produced with carbon monoxide and hydrogen, creating a substance chemically identical to fossil fuel-based diesel. Another kind of synthetic fuel is made from oxymethylene ethers (OME), but OME fuel often requires retrofits to existing diesel engines before it can be burned in them, according to German broadcaster Deutsche Welle. Both are prohibitively expensive to produce compared to diesel made from fossil fuels.

But Bosch says investing in synthetic fuels is necessary to achieving Europe’s decarbonization goals. The company’s researchers also argue that the cost of synthetic fuel will fall with economies of scale and sufficient learning. “The transport sector has to achieve near-complete independence of fossil fuels by 2050 according to International Energy Agency models,” the Bosch white paper states. Long term, electrification could achieve this, but Bosch thinks that in the short timeframe we have, it may not be possible to replace the globe’s fleet (or even Europe’s fleet) with electric and fuel cell vehicles.

Ellen Stechel, a senior sustainability scientist and the deputy director of Arizona State University’s LightWorks department, agrees that synthetic fuels are not only possible to make economic, but they’re also necessary for reducing our dependence on fossil fuels. “Holding out for 100 percent electric light duty fleet is a little bit like making the perfect the enemy of the good,” Stechel said. “What people don’t think about is that with liquid fuels, you’re not carrying the oxygen that makes it react, so they’re very, very energy-efficient.”

She admits that synthetic fuels are expensive now but says the technology to produce them is there. “With research and advances and being to get on a learning curve” a fleet running on synthetic fuels is possible. “Like anything, there’s a barrier, and it’s expensive when it’s low volume,” Stechel added. “I mean, look at photovoltaic ten years ago.” (In 2000, the world had roughly four gigawatts of solar power capacity installed. By 2017, that number had exploded to 227GW.)

In Bosch’s paper, the researchers envisioned an international economy where regions of the world with plentiful renewable resources like wind could generate the power needed to produce H2. “The e-hydrogen can be used for fuel cell vehicles or synthesized by additional conversion steps to synthetic methane (e-CH4) or synthetic fuels for an increasing blend in the remaining gasoline and diesel fleet, not only for aviation and navigation but also for commercial and passenger vehicles,” Bosch wrote. The development of synthetic fuel from renewable energy essentially becomes a way to “store” that energy in places where wind, solar, or hydro power is less reliable.

Innovative work

synthetic fuels are usually

Bosch claims that “demonstration-level pilot vegetation is already ‘online’ today and industrialization is anticipated to become achievable within 5-ten years.” Although Bosch itself states it isn’t developing synthetic fuels, others and research centers are. Continental, another German automotive component maker, announced this month it had completed tests using 15 % OME synthetic fuel combined with regular diesel.

“The present Continental road tests have confirmed that diesel fuel that contains 15 % OME admixture for current diesel engines has already been a technically safe and viable possibility for reducing green house gas emissions,” the organization writes. “You could do because CO2 generated as exhaust gas in power stations or steel works may be used in producing OME. This intelligent linking of one’s management, chemistry and automotive sectors enables synthetic fuels for example OME to produce a clean bridging technology on the highway toward pure electric mobility.”

Bosch concurs that blending synthetic fuel with traditional fuel is what you want. “With an assumed mixture of 1 % in 2025, 10 % in 2030, 40 % in 2040 and completely replacing the fossil fuel share by 2050, near internet-zero emissions are achievable,” Bosch claims.

Similarly, the German Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (Package) and also the Finnish Lappeenranta College of Technology partnered to build up the things they call the Soletair-a modular chemical plant that creates gasoline, diesel, and oil using Fischer-Tropsch synthesis from solar power and ambient co2. (Jamie Hyneman of Mythbusters fame was in this area in Finland to announce the start of the project’s tests in June). “The pilot plant includes a production capacity as high as 80 liters of gasoline each day. Within the first campaign now completed, about 200 liters of fuel were created in a number of phases to review the optimum synthesis process, options of utilizing heat created, and product qualities,” Package authored in an announcement.

The United States is very centered on biofuels from various crops (presently, a portion in our gasoline has already been combined with biofuel by government mandate), but synthetic fuels could take away the choice between using crop land for food and crop land for fuel. Still, synthetic fuel has already established a tough go from it here in the usa. Between 1980 and 1985, the federal government supported the Synthetic Fuels Corporation. However with the decline of oil prices, funding was cut. As carbon neutral or carbon negative fuel becomes crucial under global warming, synthetic fuels’ time might be ripening, a minimum of abroad.

Here is the best 7 synthetic fuels according to scientific paratemers.

Best Seven Synthetic Fuels

what is synthetic fuel

With oil and fossil fuel sources dwindling all over the world, the race to obtain the newest energy option would be certainly on. There might not be a quick fix to resolve that energy crisis, or perhaps a perfect fuel that’s infinitely available and does not pollute the atmosphere. Only one option, synthetic fuels — or synfuels — offers some advantages and a few drawbacks in comparison with conventional oil-based non-renewable fuels. Synthetic fuel is really a group of fuels which includes any fuel “created from coal, gas or biomass feedstocks through chemical conversion” [source: U.S. Energy Information Administration]. These kinds of fuels are frequently known as Fischer-Tropsch fluids, following the process accustomed to create them. The synfuels category includes fuels produced from synthetic crude, an ingredient much like oil that’s synthesized from natural sources like bitumen or oil shale [source: U.S. Energy Information Administration]. Chemically, synfuels are the same gasoline and diesel fuels we use today and could be utilized in existing engines. But producing them requires complex chemical conversions.

National governments and companies happen to be having to pay more focus on synthetic fuels recently, as rising oil prices and political instability in oil-producing countries have produced incentives to search out alternatives. The primary advantage of synfuels is they could be created using substances like coal, gas as well as plant waste, that are broadly available. Many synfuels also burn cleaner than conventional fuel. But there’s also disadvantages. When they burns up cleaner, producing synthetic fuels frequently causes as much, or even more, pollution than traditional gasoline. Synfuels still remain more costly to create than conventional fuels, mostly because more research, development and investment are required to make production economically viable.

To discover more on the different sorts of synthetic fuels presently being manufactured, keep studying.

synthetic fuels pros and cons

1 Fuel from Waste

For the similar reasons plants and plant waste may be used to make feedstock for synfuel production, solid waste may also feed the procedure. Functional solid waste includes old tires, sewage and waste from landfills [source: Speight]. As lengthy because it contains organic matter (and amounts of carbon), you can use it to produce some type of fuel. Waste employed for feedstock undergoes exactly the same process as other synfuel feedstocks. It’s burned under special conditions to create syngas, which in turn experiences the Fischer-Tropsch tactic to be synthesized into liquid fuel. As a substitute, the gas that landfills naturally emit as waste decomposes may be used to produce synthetic fuel.

2 Biomass-to-Fluids (BTL)

Coal-to-fluids and gas-to-fluids fuels are created by governing the hydrocarbons in non-oil non-renewable fuels so they are chemically like the hydrocarbons in oil and gasoline. Biomass-to-fluids fuels work based on the same theory, with the exception that the hydrocarbons originate from freshly dead organic material, not organic material that’s been decomposed and compressed over countless years. BTL fuels can be created from wood, crops, straw and grain. The benefit of BTL is it can be created from areas of individuals plants that aren’t helpful for food or manufacturing.

The development process is comparable to other synfuels: Syngas can be used to begin a Fischer-Tropsch reaction that eventually produces liquid fuels. The biomass is burned inside a low oxygen atmosphere to create syngas, one step that needs less energy than other synfuels. However it takes comparatively vast amounts of biomass feedstock (the raw material that’s synthesized) to create fuel. Five tons (about 4.5 metric tons) of feedstock (or roughly 3 acres or 1.2 hectares of crops) equal 1 ton (.9 metric tons) of manufactured BTL [source: U.S. Energy Information Administration]. BTL also costs a lot more money to create than CTL or GTL. Biomass occupies a lot more space than other synfuel feedstocks, therefore it is more expensive to keep and transport. BTL isn’t as prevalent as other kinds of synfuels, meaning companies would need to invest lots of money to obtain BTL programs ready to go. Regardless of the cost, BTL might be simpler around the atmosphere over time, since plants grown to create the fuel could block out a number of its CO2 emissions.

3 Coal-to-Fluids (CTL)

synthetic diesel fuel

Like GTL, coal-to-fluids (CTL) fuels are created by isolating the hydrocarbons in existing non-renewable fuels and converting these to a kind of synthetic fuel you can use in existing vehicles’ engines. Manufacturers use two techniques to make that conversion. The very first, indirect coal liquefaction(ICL), uses exactly the same Fischer-Tropsch process as gas-to-fluids fuels. Obviously, processing requires yet another key to convert the solid coal right into a gas that may feed the F-T reaction. Solid coal is crushed, after which uncovered to hot temperature and pressure, together with steam and oxygen, which interact with the coal to create synthesis gas. This syngas, a combination of deadly carbon monoxide, hydrogen along with other gases, will be utilized in the Fischer-Tropsch response to create liquid fuels. In direct coal liquefaction (DCL), coal is pulverized, after which uncovered to hydrogen and amounts of pressure and heat to create liquid syncrude that may be refined. This second method isn’t as broadly utilized as ICL.

Coal-to-fluids fuels could be more eco-friendly, simply because they burn cleaner than conventional gasoline or diesel. Byproducts of CTL manufacturing, including water, electricity and metals could be offered to counterbalance the costs of CTL processing making the procedure more sustainable. But you will find serious ecological drawbacks, too. CTL production consumes immeasureable water before it makes any. Additionally, it releases co2 emissions and enormous levels of solid waste known as “slag,” that is what remains from the coal in the end of their functional chemicals happen to be extracted [source: Van Bibber].

4 Oil Sands

Oil sands, or tar sands, would be the third supply of synthetic fuels that are called syncrude. A mixture of water, clay, sand along with a substance known as bitumen, oil sands occur naturally. Bitumen is an extremely thick oil-like substance that’s the consistency of very sticky Jell-O at 70 degrees. It has a lot more impurities than conventional oil, including sulfur, nitrogen and high metals that must definitely be removed prior to the bitumen can be used as fuel [source: U.S. Energy Information Administration]. The sands are often collected through open pit mining. In situ recovery can also be possible through injecting steam or chemicals to interrupt in the sands. However in situ collection consumes huge amount of water and power and it is less cost-effective.

To process oil sands to some condition they may be offered as syncrude, they are washed with warm water to split up the bitumen in the clay and sand. The bitumen will be exposed to immeasureable pressure and heat, and gas is introduced. This converts the hydrocarbons within the material right into a form that’s easier burned as fuel [source: U.S. Department from the Interior]. The huge levels of water and power required to transform oil sands from deep subterranean deposits to functional fuels turn it into a questionable fuel due to its ecological impact. The toll around the atmosphere, from strip mining and also the disposal of waste water, has brought to much debate in Canada, where the majority of the world’s oil sands are presently found [source: Kunzig].

synthetic fuels

5 Shale Oil

Shale oil is yet another type of syncrude created from marlstone, a naturally sourced rock that’s generally known as oil shale. Marlstone is wealthy inside a material known as kerogen, a natural material that naturally converts into oil when it is uncovered to extreme pressure and heat. That change usually happens over countless years, but industrial methods can replicate the procedure and convert the kerogen in oil shale to syncrude [source: U.S. Department from the Interior]. Manufacture of shale oil is basically theoretical at this time and has not been created on the massive. Oil shale may be put through pyrolysis, the development of heat and elimination of oxygen, which separates the kerogen from all of those other rock and converts it right into a liquid that may then be refined into syncrude [source: U.S. Department from the Interior].

Oil shale is very abundant. Actually, deposits within the Eco-friendly River Formation, an area that extends through areas of Colorado, Utah and Wyoming, could contain enough oil shale to create 800 billion to at least one.8 trillion barrels, based on estimates from various scientists [source: U.S. Department from the Interior]. To place individuals figures in perspective, when the lower estimate were accurate, the development could give you the U . s . States’ oil needs for a century at current usage levels [source: U.S. Department from the Interior]. However, you will find serious ecological drawbacks. Shale oil production leaves considerable amounts of waste rock behind and uses immeasureable water. Also, until technology is further developed and delicate, the operation is very costly — a lot more costly per-barrel than oil production [source: U.S. Energy Information Administration].

6 Gas-to-Fluids (GTL)

Producing gas-to-fluids fuels (or GTL) involves a procedure of converting gas into liquid, oil-based fuels. Unlike syncrudes, GTL goods are nearer to the ultimate stage of production. They don’t have to be processed with a refinery prior to being utilized as fuel. Probably the most broadly used way of converting gas to liquid fuels may be the Fischer-Tropsch process (F-T synthesis) [source: U.S. Energy Information Administration]. Within this process, gas is coupled with air after which introduced right into a chamber plus a catalyst, often a compound that contains cobalt or iron. The catalyst, together with a lot of pressure and heat, triggers a compound reaction that forms chains of hydrocarbons. Next, the gas is condensed into liquid. Based on which catalysts are added, different hydrocarbon structures are produced. F-T synthesis can establish diesel fuels, naphtha (which may be processed to create gasoline) and industrial lubricants [source: U.S. Energy Information Administration].

The GTL process particularly has mostly been accustomed to produce diesel fuels, although it may also produce naphtha. GTL, like other Fischer-Tropsch fuels, produces less emissions when burned [source: U.S. Ecological Protection Agency]. Caffeine separation process results in a more pure fuel, because impurities could be filtered out easily. Another advantage would be that the chemical reactions involved with converting the gas to fluids create electricity, steam and water as byproducts. Individuals sources may either be funneled into the production in order to save costs and lower the ecological impact or offered around the commercial market to help make the process less expensive.

  1. Extra-heavy Oil

Extra-heavy oil is among several causes of syncrude, a kind of synthetic fuel that carefully resembles oil. Extra-heavy oil occurs naturally, and forms when oil which was once hidden deep on your lawn is uncovered to bacteria that breaks lower the hydrocarbons and changes the oil’s physical qualities. The oil could be retrieved through open pit mining or “in situ” (on-site) collection. In situ collection involves piping hot steam or gas right into a well to interrupt in the heavy oil and collecting the fluid via a second well. Each method get their limits. Open pit mining are only able to be employed to collect extra-heavy oil close to the surface. Additionally, it damages the atmosphere by destroying forests and animal habitats, and also the considerable amounts water needed needs to be discarded as waste after getting used [source: Clark]. In situ methods need further research to collect considerable amounts of heavy oil.

The development process for a lot of synthetic fuels creates items that are pretty much ready for use in engines and vehicles. Syncrude production, however, produces a synthesized oil that you will find further refined to become commercially offered, much like conventional oil. In the natural condition, extra-heavy oil is essentially a far more viscous type of crude. If crude flows like water, then extra-heavy oil flows like honey. To obtain the extra-heavy oil right into a helpful form, it is normally uncovered to heat and gases that break lower the hydrocarbons into individuals that may be burned as fuel and individuals that can’t. This is comparable to the entire process of refining oil into fuels, but more costly and complex.

synthetic fuel


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