August 8, 2007: New Fuel Blend Certified for B-52 Bomber

  • Published
  • Air Force Flight Test Center

In a signing ceremony at Edwards AFB, Secretary of the Air Force Michael W. Wynne announced the completion of the service’s certification of the Fischer-Tropsch synthetic fuel blend for use in all B‑52H aircraft. Certification testing had commenced at Edwards on 19 September 2006, when a B-52H was flown with two engines running on a half-and-half blend of standard JP-8 jet fuel and Fischer-Tropsch synthetic fuel and the six remaining engines on JP-8 fuel. The demonstration had been completed three months later, on 19 December 2006, when the bomber was flown with all eight engines running on the Fischer-Tropsch/JP-8 blend. Calling it a “great day for the United States Air Force.  and another milestone for the Flight Test Center,” Secretary Wynne described the certification process as “the tip of the spear for national energy independence” and he announced that all Air Force aircraft would be certified to fly on a domestically-produced synthetic fuel blend by 2011.

The Fischer–Tropsch process is a collection of chemical reactions that converts a mixture of carbon monoxide and hydrogen into liquid hydrocarbons. These reactions occur in the presence of metal catalysts, typically at temperatures of 302–572  degrees Farenheit and pressures of one to several tens of atmospheres. The process was first developed by Franz Fischer and Hans Tropsch at the Kaiser-Wilhelm-Institut für Kohlenforschung in Mülheim an der Ruhr, Germany, in 1925.  As a premier example of C1 chemistry, the Fischer–Tropsch process is an important reaction in both coal liquefaction and gas to liquids technology for producing liquid hydrocarbons.  In the usual implementation, carbon monoxide and hydrogen, the feedstocks are produced from coal, natural gas, or biomass in a process known as gasification. The Fischer–Tropsch process then converts these gases into a synthetic lubrication oil and synthetic fuel.  The Fischer–Tropsch process has received intermittent attention as a source of low-sulfur diesel fuel and to address the supply or cost of petroleum-derived hydrocarbons.

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