back to article US airforce looks to buy Californian garbage jet fuel

An American tech-licencing company says it is in negotiations with the US Air Force - and unnamed airlines - to supply jet fuel made from Californian household waste. A combination of high oil prices, a military push to find secure fuel sources, and governmental incentives are expected to make the business case viable. Flight …


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  1. Dave


    Why California? Is it because everyone in Hollywood is full of shit?

  2. Dave

    RE: My previous comment

    Oops, was still thinking about the 'Woman stuck to toilet' story and read this article as though they were converting our *ahem* personal garbage to fuel.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Remind me not to buy...

    ... the return ticket.

    "produce 1,800 barrels of fuel per day in California - enough to fly a jumbo jet to Australia and halfway back again"

  4. Anonymous Coward

    That's no good is it?

    What good is it flying to Australia, but then only halfway back? I mean it's big and wet out there.

    The lifejacket, please.

  5. Simon Ball


    Actually, there's no reason why you couldn't. Human sewerage is a bit wet for plasma gasification - it's probably better suited to thermal deploymerization - but most organic materials can be broken down and rearranged into hydrocarbon fuels.

    Additionally, even if you ignore the fossil-fuel-derived jet fuel that the process saves, this process still reduces net emissions. Garbage left to its own devices in a landfill tends to decompose anaerobically, producing methane, which is about 25x as powerful a greenhouse gas a CO2, molecule for molecule. Burning it (albeit indirectly) will probably result in a net reduction of CO2-equivalent total emissions (CO2 is the yardstick by which the effects effects of all other greenhouse gases are measured, for the sake of convenience).

  6. dervheid
    Black Helicopters

    The words...

    "Science" and


    spring to mind here.

    There's a saying somewhere;

    "If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is!"

    Just HOW MUCH garbage IS required to produce a total of 1800BPD, whilst at the same time generating enough energy to support the plasma furnaces AND the gas liquefaction/refining process.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    Please no.

    Please, please don't make this a commercial reality. Taking 3 of the worse and most inefficient producers of CO2 and combining them into 1 system is not progress - it's just pure evil.

    Plasma arc if you must, but forget the GTL and forget the "food mile" jumbo' a sheep rearing nation (UK) we can live without fresh lamb from New Zealand, surely.

    Yes, ultimately it's CO2 going back where it came from, but the normal way takes decades in a more sustainable "drip drip" fashion. The bath is already full, the bathroom is already flooding, so to speak. The last thing we need to is start turning more taps on.

    Speaking of which, does anyone else's stomach turn whenever that Shell GTL advert comes on? Don't look for new solutions to energy...just find different ways to make the old crap work. Preferably with less efficiency. Then call it "green".

    And since internal combustion is still the best we have, why can't we just use the G, and forget the inefficient TL processing part?

    I'm a "realistic eco-nazi", but really, there must be better ways than this.

  8. Anonymous Coward

    Self Powering?

    "Solena claims that the energy value of the syngas output is four times that required to run the plasma furnaces, making the process self-powering."

    It's been a while since A-Level Physics, but isn't that kind of thing usually considered impossible without resorting to nuclear fission?

    No dobut someone can explain.

  9. lasersage
    Dead Vulture

    new invention?!?!

    This is written as though this is some new discovery. Dr Santilli invented magnegas a long time ago. Even funded by the US military briefly, and Harvard, both of which quickly cut funding after oil companies/government/god intervened.

    The US government new about such technologies and supressed them. Santilli was labelled eccentric at best. Now some other company has "reinvented" it and they're willing to listen? sounds like rubbish. Where's his credit?

    When will the actual scientists who push technology forward be recognised rather than supressed for spin.

    dead dodo, cos all us scientist may as well be!

  10. Anonymous Coward

    @ Simon Ball add to my previous comments, methane is a fantastic fuel in raw form (and we have considerable natural and self-made supplies of it), and as you say - burning methane to CO2 (a lesser green house gas) is definitely the lesser of two evils.

    <non-scientist alert>

    Can't we just run the methane without having to convert to hydrocarbon?

    </non-scientist alert>

    Skull and crossbones, because we're all doomed.

  11. Ishkandar

    P. T. Barnum is still right !!

    "Solena claims that the energy value of the syngas output is four times that required to run the plasma furnaces, making the process self-powering."

    Only in America and, particularly California, do they still believe in the perpetual motion machine.

    @Please no. - "I'm a "realistic eco-nazi", but really, there must be better ways than this." - yes there is. It was also in use commercial up till the end of the 19th century. It's called wind !!

  12. Steven Raith
    Thumb Down

    Re: Self Powering

    I think the concept the 'perpetual motion engine' is that it requires no fuel [energy, extra push every half hour, etc] once you start it - that would be truly self perpetuating.

    This idea would still require fuel in terms of suitable garbage to be converted to gas - it just means that the generator uses 25% of it's own output [when supplied with fuel] to power itself.

    I'm thinking of it in the same way as car engine can provide enough energy to turn an alternator to provide it's own electricity to give itself a spark - but it still requires petrol to be connected to it to run the alternator itself that provides that spark, etc.

    that's the way it works in my head anyway, but I'm not especially smart :-)

    Steven R

  13. Mike Richards Silver badge

    @dervheid @Anonymous Coward @ Ishkandar

    'Just HOW MUCH garbage IS required to produce a total of 1800BPD, whilst at the same time generating enough energy to support the plasma furnaces AND the gas liquefaction/refining process.'

    From experience, about the same amount of garbage thrown out by an average Californian household each week

    Yes a plane can fly on methane, gas turbines are remarkably unfussy what they burn. It would be less energy dense than kerosene, so range would suffer.

    However the big problem is storing the fuel. It has to be liquified to be at all practical and that is a real issue. Making tanks for the wings would be bloody hard and also inefficient since they'd have relatively large surface areas in comparison to their volume, so they'd tend to heat up quicker. This would lead to real risks of icing on the wings which is a big aviation no-no. The alternative is to stick a tank into the fuselage, either by stretching the plane or by removing some of the capacity. This is a simpler, more efficient solution, but I'm not sure how the FAA would feel about passengers being in such close proximity to a large deep-frozen bomb.

    Lockheed did some studies in the mid 1980s of a TriStar run on liquid hydrogen - a much more challenging fuel - and found no real problems, but there was no funding for a scheme. I also seem to recall some work being done on methane slushes for rockets and jets - take liquid methane and cool it even further into a Slushee consistency and you get even more power per kilo - but I don't think any of that technology has ever been built.

    @ Ishkandar

    Errr why is this process violating any law of physics? By your rules, oil refineries can't possibly work because they use the residue from fractionation to heat the stills that produce (amongst other things) - crude residue. The waste going into the furnaces contains a lot of energy, it just needs a relatively small amount of energy to release it.

  14. Anonymous Coward

    Useable energy input into system > useable energy output from system

    @Jezza, Ishkandar, see the title - the total useable energy of the output is less than the total useable energy of the input (obviously total energy of all kinds is the same - in this house, we obey the laws of thermodynamics!), but rather than being spread over 4 million tonnes of slowly-decomposing-to-methane rubbish, its quickly converted into (a lot less) high-energy-density fuel, which you could in theory burn to power the furnaces. There would be further efficiency losses in the burning process, but there is nothing theoretically wrong with the idea it could be a self powering process (or more accurately, a rubbish-powered process).

    We need more ideas like this, and like the previous story about cow-pat based fuel - rather than becoming tofu-eating cave-dwellers, lets make more efficient use of resources we have available.

    Flames, because plasma torches sound pretty toasty to me.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "tofu-eating cave-dwellers"

    The processing that you have to do to soya beans (do they even grow in this country?) in order to turn them into tofu is not really something you could do with stone-age technology.

    If we're going to go back to living in caves, we'll also have to look at, erm, more traditional ways of getting protein into a form our bodies can use.

  16. This_One


    Great, now people will be encouraged to put more rubbish in the bin - it's needed for fuel. The energy companies will buy the supermarkets, who will demand more waste and packaging .... who will make more money the more you throw away, no not cool.

    I read that the usa forces use as much oil as Greese, wouldn't be easier for them to start less wars, thus needing less fuel ?

  17. The Prevaricator

    @ lasersage

    Is this the same Dr Santilli who came up with the wonder that is "HHO gas"?

    Yawn. I mean, really??? What *were* you thinking?

  18. Marko Alat


    The Prevaricator did sed:

    > Is this the same Dr Santilli who came up with the wonder that is "HHO gas"?

    Yes, yes he is.

    HIlariously, the contact page on the fairly slick-looking website of the Magnegas Corporation lists the company president(?!?) as having a Los Angeles phone number, while the CFO's number is in central Florida... at least their quoted email addresses have something in common... they end in "".

    Scratching a bit deeper at the Solena technology, it seems to be pretty much the same crock of fuel-from-shite as what Santilli's, Brown and other crank-handles have been peddling since day dot... take random organic materials, blast with sufficient heat in sufficent absence of oxygen to dissociate the complex hydrocarbons into atomic carbon and hydrogen (plus trace elements), draw products away so the hydrogen recombines into molecular hydrogen gas, which is then quickly relabelled as a miracle new never-before-seen wonder-fuel and burned even quicker, before anybody, hopefully, notices how much of a crackhead you're being in making your claims.

    If this was serious, the article in Flight International would've carried statements from USAF spokespeople rather than just the head of a hole-in-the-wall outfit which has been going for (according to its own website) over a decade and has nothing to show for it.

    Penguin, because global warming threatens their ice-floe habitats, and because they're cute.

  19. Joe Cooper


    "It's been a while since A-Level Physics, but isn't that kind of thing usually considered impossible without resorting to nuclear fission?"

    It's not impossible at all, and if it was, it would be for nuclear fission too.

    You're probably thinking "you can't get more energy out of a system than you put in".

    But that's not true. We do that regularly. Oil is sucking fuel from the ground. We didn't put the energy in the oil, but we can sure get a lot out of it! Nuclear fission is the ~exact~ same thing, except it's metal instead of oil.

    The thing is, the law of physics is that you can't get more energy out of something than was put in ~by anyone or any process~.

    The oil, the radioactive metals and the shit have tons of energy put in before it gets turned into fuel.

    In other words, it works not because any energy is being created, but because there's already plenty of energy in it, and running the plasma arcs is only an extraction cost.

    Make sense?

  20. Tim Bates
    Thumb Up


    "The USAF wants to be getting at least 150 kilobarrels a day from non-petroleum sources by 2010"

    Easy! Make the barrels smaller, and thus require less product. If they make them small enough, I could probably supply them with Hydrogen made in my shed.

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    Has someone been watching Back to the Future?

    This sounds awfully like what they had in the film Back to the Future.

    i.e. use common household rubbish to propel a flying machine by way of a Mr. Fusion Home Energy Reactor.

    Perhaps some of the ideas that the writers in Hollywood come up with in films aren't as crazy as first seems.

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