Technology Development – Turning Seawater into Jet Fuel

Converting the carbon dioxide and hydrogen into hydrocarbons that can then be used to develop JP-5 fuel stock. The technology has an economically viable widespread applicability.

This article first published in the New Energy & Fuel on September 25, 2012

Scientists at the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) are developing a process to extract carbon dioxide (CO2) and produce hydrogen gas (H2) from seawater.  Then they catalytically convert the CO2 and H2 into jet fuel by a gas-to-liquids process.

The NRL effort has successfully developed and demonstrated technologies for the recovery of the CO2 and the production of the H2 from seawater using an electrochemical acidification cell, and the conversion of the CO2 and H2 to hydrocarbons that can be used to produce jet fuel.

Electrochemical Acidification Carbon Capture Skid. Click image for more info.

NRL research chemist Dr. Heather Willauer said, “The potential payoff is the ability to produce JP-5 jet fuel stock at sea reducing the logistics tail on fuel delivery with no environmental burden and increasing the Navy’s energy security and independence.”  JP-5 is very close chemically to kerosene and diesel.

Willauer continues, “The reduction and hydrogenation of CO2 to form hydrocarbons is accomplished using a catalyst that is similar to those used for Fischer-Tropsch reduction and hydrogenation of carbon monoxide. By modifying the surface composition of iron catalysts in fixed-bed reactors, NRL has successfully improved CO2 conversion efficiencies up to 60%.”

Technically, the NRL has developed a two-step laboratory process to convert the CO2 and H2 gathered from the seawater to liquid hydrocarbons. In the first step, an iron-based catalyst can achieve CO2 conversion levels up to 60% and decrease unwanted methane production from 97% to 25% in favor of longer-chain unsaturated hydrocarbons (olefins). Then in step two the olefins can be oligomerized (a chemical process that converts monomers, molecules of low molecular weight, to a compound of higher molecular weight by a finite degree of polymerization) into a liquid containing hydrocarbon molecules in the carbon C9-C16 range, suitable for conversion to jet fuel by a nickel-supported catalyst reaction.

The raw materials are abundant.  CO2 is an abundant carbon source in seawater, with the concentration in the ocean about 140 times greater than that in air. Two to three percent of the CO2 in seawater is dissolved CO2 gas in the form of carbonic acid, one percent is carbonate, and the remaining 96 to 97% is bound in bicarbonate. When processes are developed to take advantage of the higher weight per volume concentration of CO2 in seawater, coupled with more efficient catalysts for the heterogeneous catalysis of CO2 and H2, a viable sea-based synthetic fuel process could be developed.

The NRL effort made significant advances developing carbon capture technologies in the laboratory. In the summer of 2009 a standard commercially available chlorine dioxide cell and an electro-deionization cell were modified to function as electrochemical acidification cells. Using the novel modified cells both dissolved and bound CO2 were recovered from seawater by re-equilibrating carbonate and bicarbonate to CO2 gas at a seawater pH below 6. In addition to CO2, the cells produced H2 at the cathode as a by-product.

Note that the oceans offer a huge reserve of raw materials for fuel production.

The completed studies of 2009 assessed the effects of the acidification cell configuration, seawater composition, flow rate, and current on seawater pH levels. The data were used to determine the feasibility of this approach for efficiently extracting large quantities of CO2 from seawater. From these feasibility studies NRL successfully scaled-up and integrated the carbon capture technology into an independent skid, or “lab on a pallet’ so to speak, called a “carbon capture skid” to process larger volumes of seawater and evaluate the overall system design and efficiencies.

The carbon capture skid’s major component is a three-chambered electrochemical acidification cell. The cell uses small quantities of electricity to exchange hydrogen ions produced at the anode with sodium ions in the seawater stream. As a result, the seawater is acidified. At the cathode, water is reduced to H2 gas and sodium hydroxide (NaOH) is formed. This basic solution may be re-combined with the acidified seawater to return the seawater to its original pH with no additional chemicals. Current and continuing research using the carbon capture skid demonstrates the continuous efficient production of H2 and the recovery of up to 92% of the CO2 from seawater.

The carbon capture skid has been tested using seawater from the Gulf of Mexico to simulate conditions that will be encountered in actual open ocean processing.

The NRL group is working now on process optimization and scale-up.  Initial studies predict that jet fuel from seawater would cost in the range of $3 to $6 per gallon to produce.

Willauer points out, “With such a process, the Navy could avoid the uncertainties inherent in procuring fuel from foreign sources and/or maintaining long supply lines.”  During the government’s fiscal year 2011, the U.S. Navy Military Sea Lift Command, the primary supplier of fuel and oil to the U.S. Navy fleet, delivered nearly 600 million gallons of fuel to Navy vessels underway, operating 15 fleet replenishment ships around the globe.

The Navy’s fuel supply system works at sea, while underway and is a costly endeavor in terms of logistics, time, fiscal constraints and threats to national security and the sailors at sea.

It’s a brilliantly insightful use of the environment.  Moreover the technology will help clean the seawater of an overcharge of CO2 and that is actually a recycling of fossil fuel additions to the environment.

Entrepreneurs are going to realize the Navy’s work could be an industrial boon to fuel production as well as shorten the carbon cycle.  While the Navy thinks $3 to $6 for production cost, the private sector would very likely drive that cost far further down.

It’s not hard to imagine that in a few years most of the oil business might simply be at sea, harvesting CO2 and H2, making petroleum products from a recycling of the CO2 from the past use of fossil fuels.

Many may complain that the military is a waste, poor policy, or other notions that fly in the face of human nature.  But in the past few decades the U.S. military, filled with volunteers, can make significant contributions, and now perhaps solve what has been thought to be an intractable problem.


China the most powerful growth engine for new global companies

World to see boom in big firms

By YU RAN | 2013-11-07 | China Daily

Report: Nation to be ‘engine’for companies

An additional 7,000 companies globally are expected to become large enterprises with revenues of more than $1 billion by 2025, with 70 percent of them likely to be based in emerging regions, especially China, a report has said.

The new report on the shifting global business landscape, which was released by the McKinsey Global Institute on Wednesday in Shanghai, said that many more large companies will develop in emerging cities and countries from the current 8,000 large companies worldwide, 75 percent of which are based in developed regions.

China is without a doubt the most powerful growth engine for new global companies, and now is the time for forward-thinking cities to build their reputations among Chinese business leaders, the report said.

The survey found that one-third of large companies are now headquartered in only 20 cities globally while three in 10 large Chinese companies are based either in Beijing or Shanghai. However, there might be more than 300 cities in China hosting at least one large company by 2025.

“Many city officials are focused on luring corporate headquarters, but it is actually relatively rare for companies to move their head offices,” said Elsie Chang, an MGI senior research fellow.

Chang added that the more promising opportunity lies in attracting foreign subsidiaries as thousands of global companies are expanding into new markets.

For instance, opening more plants in China to make products tailored specifically to local buyers is the stated goal of PPG Industries Inc, a major global coatings and specialty products company, in the next three to five years.

“China is a very important market for PPG, being the second-largest market among 70 countries, while we have plans to continue to invest in China as our business grows and we want to apply our best technology to help our customers,” said Mike Horton, PPG’s president for the Asia-Pacific region.

With more than 30 plants in the Asia-Pacific region, 14 of which are on the Chinese mainland, PPG plans to develop its Chinese market step by step to become a major manufacturer and seller in the country.

“We are planning to find and work with more high-standard factories to manufacture what we sell in China instead of importing products from overseas to meet the increasing demand within the country,” said Horton.

The number of large companies based in emerging regions is poised to far more than triple by 2025, rising from around 2,200 today to about 7,000 in 2025. This reflects rising incomes and growing local market opportunities in these regions, as well as the fact that local companies are expanding, maturing, and reconfiguring through mergers or acquisitions, the MGI report said.

About 280 up-and-coming cities in emerging economies could host the headquarters of a large company for the first time, becoming new hubs in global industry networks, it added.

“The world’s competitive landscape will be transformed over the next 10 to 15 years by the rise of a formidable new breed of large emerging-market companies,” said Jonathan Woetzel, a director at MGI and one of the report’s authors.

Woetzel added that the long-established dominance of Western multinationals is about to be challenged.

In addition, China will also see more small and medium-sized companies becoming large ones as the number of large companies in China is expected to increase from 800 to more than 3,400 by 2025, the report said.

Some private business owners in China are already pursuing the goal of transforming the scale of their companies from small and medium-sized to large.

For example, the effects of the growing e-commerce industry are bringing impressive results to some sectors.

Zhejiang Duoying Jewelry Co Ltd, which closed its physical shop and registered an online shop in 2012, saw its gross profit grow to 30 million yuan ($4.88 million) in 2012, twice the amount posted in 2011.

“The peak period of export trading ended in 2011 with a sharp decrease of over 30 percent on annual output from 2008 while the amount of orders also declined nearly 40 percent,” said Zeng Hongqi, the general manager of Zhejiang Duoying Jewelry.

Zeng added that he aims to boost his company’s profits with gradual annual growth and upgraded branding, going from the current mid-market clients to high-end customers in 10 years.

In particular, more focus will be placed on the services sector in China, as Shenzhen and Nanjing are developing as hubs for non-State controlled, medium-sized companies with a higher share of global revenue from services companies than other leading emerging-region cities such as Mumbai, India, and Sao Paulo, Brazil, said the report.


China to deepen reforms to achieve sustainable economic development

China to deepen reforms to spur growth

2013-11-07 | China Daily


BEIJING – The upcoming policy meeting of the Communist Party of China (CPC) is expected to unveil a package of measures to deepen reforms to achieve sustainable economic development, said experts.

The reforms are “essential for China as it tries to find a sustainable growth model over the medium and long term,” said the Wall Street Journal in an article.

The Third Plenary Session of the 18th CPC Central Committee, which is expected to steer the country to an historic turning point, will kick off at this weekend.

Thanks to three-decade reform and opening up, China has become the second largest economy in the world with an annual growth rate of nearly 10 percent and an approximate $6,000 GDP per capita.

However, China’s economic growth has experienced a sequential slowdown since 2011, with a growth target of 7.5 percent in 2013.

China is facing comprehensive problems such as production overcapacity, local debts and shadow banks. Population aging and an enlarging wealth gap also piles pressure on the old growth model.

China’s economic development has entered a stage where only reforms can unleash growth potential and reduce risks, said a research report from Britain’s Barclays Bank.

Experts anticipate that the new reforms will focus on urbanization — a critical driving force for China’s long-term economic growth.

The director of the Asia Research Center of the London School of Economics, Athar Hussain, said China has made great changes in the past few years, noting that urbanization, which requires both economic and political reform, will become the most important issue for the Chinese government in the next five years.

Hussain also forecasted that more city clusters, such as the Chengdu-Chongqing cluster in the central and western areas, will be created to reduce the stress on the four megacities of Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Shenzhen.

Expert said a scientific and effective transformation to urbanization will stimulate domestic demand, balance investment and consumption, and inject new impetus to the economic growth.

As a driving force of economic growth and rebalance, the Wall Street Journal said urbanization will be supported at the Third Plenary Session of the 18th CPC Central Committee on November 9-12.

Experts also pointed out that the policy of focusing on the dominant role of people is very important, which will increase the autonomy and sustainability of China’s urbanization progress.

History shows that land and agriculture is deeply related to the fate of Chinese people. The old urban-rural dual structure is expected to be reshaped following reforms in such fields as the land system, the social security system, modern agriculture and law.

The Third Plenary Session of the 18th CPC Central Committee is an opportunity for China’s new leadership to show their wisdom by coping with those challenges, said Anoop Singh, director of the Asia and Pacific Department of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in an article published on IMF’s website.

Gainers & Losers of Chinese Economy

China’s Rich List Mirrors Industry Shifts

2013-09-23 17:20 | The Economic Observer

By Kang Yi (康怡) | Issue 637, Sept 16, 2013


The worst period for the Chinese economy seems to have passed – at least for China’s ultra-rich.

The latest Hurun Rich List, released on Sept 11, showed that the average wealth of the entrepreneurs listed had risen by 18.5 percent over last year. But rather than indicating a recovering economy, this could just be an illustration of the “Matthew Effect” where the rich get richer and the poor get poorer.

59-year-old Wang Jianlin (王健林), chairman of the real estate giant Wanda Group, became China’s richest man for the first time with his 135 billion yuan. This broke the previous 130 billion yuan record for the wealthiest Chinese.

Compared to last year, Wang’s wealth increased by 108 percent. Founder and Chairman of Hangzhou Wahaha Group Zong Qinghou (宗庆后), who held the top spot last year, fell to number two this year but still saw his wealth grow by 44 percent. Founder of Tencent Ma Huateng (马化腾) came in at third after his fortune grew 51 percent. The wealth accumulation rate of all these entrepreneurs far outpaced the growth of the Chinese economy, which only grew by 7 to 8 percent.

Wang Zhongmin (王忠明), vice secretary-general of the All-China Federation of Industry & Commerce,  says that even though China’s economic growth is slowing, wealth accumulation of the rich is speeding up. He says this indicates that private enterprises of a fairly large scale have started to enjoy a certain economic inertia.

“Taking Wang Jianlin as an example, his industry structure is prepared for the future,” Wang Zhongmin said. “It’s not only involved in real estate, but is also internationalizing and branching out into culture. Wang has already accelerated and has inertia. Because his development is healthy, the government and other sectors will provide him with more support in terms of resources.”

According to Hurun, the shift in this year’s rich list is a sort of microcosm of the industrial structure adjustment in China. “The wealth of the Rich List this year reached a new record mainly through the real estate industry recovery and the rapid development of IT,” Hurun said.

Hurun also gave a nod to the progress of China’s urbanization, which was hoped to become the biggest engine driving China’s economy during “Twelfth Five-Year Plan” period (2011–2015). “No one is more representative than Wang Jianlin to represent China’s urbanization progress,” it said.

Wang’s Wanda Group has branched into four industries including commercial real estate, high-end hotels, cultural tourism and department store chains. It’s opened 72 Wanda Plazas, 40 five-star hotels, 6,000 cinema screens, 62 department stores and 68 karaoke clubs across China.

Wanda Group had total revenue of 141.7 billion yuan in 2012 with a profit of over 20 billion yuan. According to Hurun’s estimate, 80 percent of Wang Jianlin’s wealth comes from real estate.

But the IT industry had the biggest gains this year. Three out of the top 10 richest Chinese on the list are in IT, and the total number of entrepreneurs on the list involved in the IT industry increased over 20 percent since last year.

One of the best representatives on the list was Xiaomi Founder and CEO Lei Jun (雷军), who came in at 63rd. His wealth grew 567 percent from 2.4 billion yuan last year to 16 billion yuan this year. Xiaomi’s MI mobile phone is one of the most popular domestic made models in China, reaching 12.6 billion yuan in sales in 2012.

However, the Rich List showed that not all of China’s super rich had such a good year. 252 entrepreneurs saw their wealth shrink, of which 77 percent came from publicly-listed companies.  Six people experienced more than a 50 percent drop in their wealth and 115 entrepreneurs who made the list last year fell off altogether this time.

It was the clothing and liquor industries that saw the biggest loss of wealth. Iron and steel, minerals and non-ferrous metals also saw big declines. Many entrepreneurs from these industries fell off the Rich List this year.

The Hurun Rich List is being regarded as a mirror of China’s private economy. Wang Zhongmin says he hopes to see more private bankers on the list in the future. Gradual financial reform may allow this to happen. Meanwhile, Hurun says that the entertainment industry will be the most likely “dark horse” to make a splash in the future.

However, Hurun warns that the people on its Rich List are just the top of the iceberg. “Behind each of the people with ‘transparent wealth’ there are two rich people with ‘hidden wealth,’” it says. “There are 1,000 rich people ranked in our list, which means there should be more than 3,000 if you count those with hidden wealth.”