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Sep 10, 2010

Biofuel ready for commercial-scale production

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Process technology supplier Honeywell UOP is ready to move its green jet fuel into commercial-scale production within the next two or three years, and has started the certification and licensing processes.

The green jet fuel was originally developed under contract from the US-based Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, in 2007, to identify new sources for producing renewable military jet fuel for the US military.

Green jet fuel currently costs more than petroleum-based fuel owing to its small-scale production and feedstocks, which are also not yet produced on a commercial scale.

“As more biological feedstocks, such as camelina and algae, become available and, as we move into commercial-scale fuel production in the next few years, we expect that the costs will be comparable,” the company tells Engineering News.

The fuel is made using process technology which converts natural oils, such as algae, the plant camelina and used cooking oil, which is then blended in a 50% mixture with traditional jet fuel for flight. In June, green jet fuel powered the first helicopter biofuel demonstration flight on a Boeing AH-64D Apache helicopter, flown by the Royal Netherlands Air Force.

The flight, which made use of sustainable aviation biofuels on a helicopter for the first time, was undertaken at Gilze-Rijen airbase, the home of the Royal Netherlands combat helicopter fleet.

The green jet fuel has also been demonstrated in fixed-wing flights with the US Air Force and Navy as part of a joint programme for alternative fuels testing and certification under the US Defence Energy Support Centre, the company says.
“The company’s focus is to ensure that all stringent specifications for jet fuel are met, while producing a drop-in fuel that could be used without making any modifications to the aircraft or the fuel infrastructure, such as pumps, storage or pipelines,” says Honeywell UOP. The company, with its partnerships with airlines and aircraft manufac- turers, will continue testing the viability of biofuels for both mili- tary and commercial aviation through flight demonstrations, and will continue the research and development efforts around biomass to fuel technology.

These demonstration flights have also shown that green jet fuel can offer improved energy effi- ciency, which means that aircraft can travel farther on less fuel. The fuel can also assist in dealing with the growing demand for fuels, the volatility of fuel prices and concerns around greenhouse-gas emissions.
A 50:50 blend of green jet fuel and petroleum-based fuel is required as the biofuel does not contain the aromatics required; however, there is a way to produce aromatics from renewable sources (such as waste biomass), which would allow the company to produce a 100% aviation biofuel.

“We have proven this technology in the lab and even ran a jet-engine-powered hydroplane boat using this fuel,” the company says.

Meanwhile, Honeywell UOP’s Netherlands Department of Energy-funded integrated bio- refinery, currently being built in Kapolei, in Hawaii, aims to scale up this type of technology. The company expects to be producing green fuels and renewable aromatics from biomass at this facility in 2013.

Although the technology is ready for licensing to a fuel producer, the focus is now on the certification of the green jet fuel, which is progressing and should be complete by the end of 2010.

Edited by: Brindaveni Naidoo
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