By Clinton E. Crackel, Co-founder and Co-chairman, Nuclear Fuels Reprocessing Coalition
October 11, 2017 - According to the Energy Information Administration, over 45% of our refinery capacity, 51% of our natural gas processing and 17% of our crude oil production are in the Gulf of Mexico region.
Hurricane Harvey's impact on the Gulf of Mexico rendered approximately 25% of our refineries inoperable for a short period of time. This equates to a loss of approximately 2.2 million barrels of crude oil being refined per day. In addition, Hurricane Nate caused a curtailment of 92% of our oil output and 77% of natural gas production operations in the Gulf.
The loss of so much refining capacity and oil extraction, even for a short period of time, can lead to a dramatic shortage in our nation’s petroleum fuel supply. Such shortages can and will lead to considerable price spikes in jet fuel, gasoline and diesel fuel. In one instance, due to Hurricane Harvey, the price of a gallon of gasoline was reported to be $6.99 at one gas station in Arlington, Texas.
The refineries and drilling operations are highly susceptible to damage and prolonged shutdown due to hurricanes. Yet we have no source of alternative fuel for internal combustion engines available unless vehicles are modified to run on such fuels as hydrogen, liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) in the form of propane, compressed natural gas (CNG) or liquefied natural gas (LNG).
It costs approximately $10,000 for a simple conversion of a light vehicle to burn hydrogen, and from $6,500 for a basic system to $12,000 for a top-of-the line system to convert a light vehicle to burn CNG, LNG or LPG (Propane): $6,500 for a basic system to $12,000 for a top-of-the-line system. I'm sure the costs are inherently more for larger vehicles.
The Fischer-Tropsch coal to liquid (CTL) synthetic fuel process converts coal to a liquid form similar to crude oil, and it can be refined to produce jet fuel, gasoline and diesel fuel. This synthetic fuel can be used in internal combustion engines without having to pay the exorbitant costs to modify a vehicle to burn other types of fuel.
Adopting the Fischer-Tropsch CTL synthetic fuel process on a wide scale in the United States would generate thousands of jobs in the coal mining and fuel production industries, including new plant construction. It would also ensure an uninterruptible supply of fuel for use in internal combustion engines is available because the Fischer-Tropsch CTL synthetic fuel plants would be located further inland, away from areas most susceptible to the destructive effects of hurricanes.
Due to its inherent compatibility with petroleum based fuels and relative safety of processing locations, the Fischer-Tropsch CTL synthetic fuel process should be incorporated as a vital component of our national energy mix.