U.S. Military Announces Plan to Develop Synthetic Jet Fuels

It could have non-military implications as well

Could these F-35s be run on synthetic fuel in the future?
BO AMSTRUP/Ritzau Scanpix/AFP via Getty Images

There’s been plenty of talk lately about phasing out oil and gas in favor of more environmentally-friendly sources of fuel. Often this involves discussion of electric cars and solar-powered vehicles, but those aren’t the only areas in which alternative fuel sources are coming to the foreground. The Department of Defense is now working to create synthetic jet fuel — and, to hear them explain it, this could be a big step forward for both environmental and pragmatic reasons.

The Department of Defense recently announced a $65 million contract with Air Company. That contract provides support to something called Project SynCE (Synthetic Fuels for the Contested Environment) — with the goal being transforming existing carbon dioxide into jet fuel.

An article in Task & Purpose explains why this is important: in the past, fuel convoys and tankers have emerged as targets in combat situations. The synthetic fuels would allow a certain amount of jet fuel to be made at a base without requiring additional fuel to be transported in — in theory, allowing for greater flexibility and security.

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It doesn’t sound like this initiative is designed to replace petroleum-based fuels entirely, however. Nikita Pavlenko of the International Council on Clean Transportation told Task & Purpose that patience should be in order. “Air Company is still in the very, very initial stages of commercialization,” Pavlenko said.

For their part, the Department of Defense sounds optimistic that this technology might also have non-military applications. “By developing and deploying on-site fuel production technology, our Joint Force will be more resilient and sustainable,” said Project SynCE Operational Lead Lieutenant Colonel Nicole Pearl in a statement. “Together with the DoE and the commercial industry, we’re working towards revolutionary energy solutions that benefit not just the military, but our society as a whole.”

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