In its work, the Princeton team looked at a broader picture. In a July article in the AIChE Journal, the team found that the United States could meet its entire demand for transportation fuel by building 130 synthetic fuel plants across the country. The article, with Josephine Elia, a graduate student in chemical and biological engineering as the lead author, made its assessment using three feedstocks: coal, natural gas and biomass. To avoid switching farmland from food production to crops used for fuel production which would hurt the food supply the researchers only included non-edible crops such as perennial grasses, agricultural residue and forest residue.
The plants modeled in their scenario were placed in proximity to both feedstock supplies and markets for fuels. The analysis factored in external costs such as water supplies and electricity to power the plants' machinery.
Ultimately, the team recommended construction of nine small, 74 medium and 47 large plants producing 1 percent, 28 percent and 71 percent of the fuel, respectively. Most of the plants would be clustered in the central part of the country and in the Southeast. The state with the highest level of fuel production would be Kansas, which would have 11 large synthetic fuel plants. Texas would have the largest number of plants, but because of the scattered nature of feedstock in that state, most of those plants would be medium-sized.
The researchers found that the largest contributor to the price of synthetic fuel would be the cost of building the plants, followed by the purchase of biomass and then electricity. They estimated that th
|Contact: John Sullivan|
Princeton University, Engineering School