The future is non-polluting gas


High-end performance automaker Porsche is involved in the early-stage development of its own brand fuel for its vehicles. Car and Driver reports the company has produced eFuel, a new liquid gasoline alternative made from CO2 and Hydrogen which performs like gasoline only with 85% less pollution.

Porsche enthusiastically boasts eFuel could replace gasoline while giving the internal combustion engine something new to run on.

Should eFuel catch on, what would this mean for the oil and gas industry in Louisiana and other oil-producing states?

“Louisiana is full of [refinery] plants that convert grey-hydrogen (hydrogen produced using fossil fuels such as natural gas) in gasoline and diesel and jet fuel and what have you,” says Dr. Eric Smith, Associate Director of the Tulane Energy Institute.

Smith says making synthetic fuel is nothing new.  It involves chemical engineering and Hydrotreater.

“We have the PBF Refinery right here in New Orleans, actually Chalmette, it has a Hydrotreater, in fact, it’s a hundred years old and it’s been doing for a long time, so it knows how to do it!”

Hydrotreating is removing sulfur and nitrogen and other pollution-causing items. Though additional research is needed, refining clean-burning fuel is possible and could be the future of oil and gas in Louisiana.

Smith says the biggest impediment to clean synthetic fuels is cost.

“They want to take a look at converting the Hydrotreater over to producing green-diesel (low-or-non Sulphur content diesel fuel) or jet fuel out of the refinery, well obviously that avoids a lot of capital spending.

Smith points to a project in Port Allen which is a new type of refinery, using a European process, and being built at considerable expense to refine natural waste products like animal fats and soybean oil into a carbon replacement fuel.

Smith says synthetic fuel production is already going on in one way or another as an additive in refining or to blend with existing carbon-based fuels made from crude oil.

“We already do some of this,” he explains.  “And we have a measurable chunk of the refining capacity for the whole U.S.  Between us and Texas, Alabama and Mississippi, we have 57% of the refining capacity of the United States.

The future very well could be clean-burning fuels which automobiles can run on without requiring costly retrofitting or special, aftermarket, fuel systems or tanks.

Perhaps the predicted end of the internal combustion engine is just a little premature.

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