EERC, Great Plains to produce camelina jet fuel

By Susanne Retka Schill
Web exclusive posted Oct. 10, 2008 at 9:49 a.m. CST

Camelina is being tapped as the feedstock for JP8 jet fuel development. Great Plains The Camelina Co. announced in early October that it has entered into an agreement with the University of North Dakota's Energy and Environmental Research Center to utilize EERC's proprietary technology to produce advanced fuels from camelina. The EERC and Great Plains will utilize camelina oil for upcoming testing and are planning to develop a full-scale refinery focused on renewable jet fuel production.

The agreement with Great Plains involves a feasibility study and laying out a business plan for doing a full-scale demonstration, said Chad Wocken, research manager at EERC. "First we need to go through a detailed process design process and that will take six months," he explained. The detailed cost analysis required for a business plan could take another six months to a year, Wocken added. "It's conceivable to have a plant operating within three years," he said. While the initial demonstration plant will be smaller, the feasibility studies will be targeted at a facility with a capacity of up to 50 MMgy.

Under a contract with the U.S. Department of Defense's Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), EERC has developed a technology producing jet fuel from vegetable oil that Wocken describes as a system not too different from petroleum refining. "Camelina is one of many crop oils we can use," he said. "The advantages of camelina are that it is outside of food commodities, it has a short growing season and can be grown in dry areas."

The EERC announced in late September that it had produced completely renewable jet fuel that meets all the specifications required for military aviation use. "The major breakthrough is that we're using 100 percent renewable feedstock," said Tom Erickson, associate director for research at the EERC. Up to this point, any advances in jet fuel have been made by blending the renewable fuel with petroleum-based jet fuels. The EERC is currently producing larger samples of the renewable fuel for ground testing in jet engines.