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Researchers at Pennsylvania State University have been exploring alternative methods of producing a fuel for military jet aircraft. Most of this work has focused on processing a coal-tar derivative with a low-value intermediate produced during petroleum refining. More recently, they have been exploring a process that uses a mixture of solid coal and decant oil to produce a combination of liquid fuels and coke. At the request of the Air Force, RAND Project AIR FORCE examined market constraints associated with the feedstocks or the coke by-products. RAND found that the limited availability of coal tar and decant oil and limited marketability, as high-value products, of the coke co-products would severely constrain jet fuel production from these process concepts. The report recommends ceasing all work directed at process concepts dependent on coal tar or large amounts of decant oil. This includes terminating planned pilot-scale operations. A more-productive alternative is laboratory research directed at identifying opportunities in which pyrolysis might improve the prospects for liquid fuels production from coal or biomass.

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The research reported here was sponsored by the United States Air Force and conducted by RAND Project AIR FORCE.

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