Renewable jet fuel ready for takeoff

By Kris Bevill
Several members of the renewable fuels industry recently made announcements promoting their latest accomplishments in renewable jet fuel production.

Researchers at the University of North Dakota's Energy & Environmental Research Center have produced samples of a 100 percent renewable jet fuel that meets the stringent requirements for the U.S. military's JP-8 jet fuel. JP-8 is similar to Jet A, which is used in commercial aviation equipment. "If you can make JP-8, you can make Jet A," said Tom Erickson, associate director for research at the EERC.

Erickson wasn't able to list the specific feedstocks used in the EERC's process, but he said the center is capable of utilizing any oil crop. The EERC fuel doesn't need to be blended with petroleum-based fuel for use. "The major breakthrough is that we're using 100 percent renewable feedstock," he emphasized, mentioning that research is also being conducted on algal-oil-to-fuel projects.

It took the EERC six months to a year to produce test samples. Funding was supplied by a $4.7 million contract from the U.S. Department of Defense's Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. Larger samples will be used by the Department of Defense for engine testing later this year. Meanwhile, the EERC is working with Great Plains-The Camelina Co. to explore the use of camelina as a feedstock for its process.

Algae is a already popular feedstock for jet fuel among other companies. California-based Solazyme Inc. recently announced it had produced algal-based aviation fuel that passed all specifications for aviation turbine fuel at the Southwest Research Institute, a fuel analysis lab in San Antonio. New Zealand-based Aquaflow Bionomic Corp. said it has produced algae-derived "green crude" samples from algae that can be separated into various types of fuel, including aviation fuel.