Ready for Take Off

Gevo progresses with ASTM biojet fuel testing as planned, on schedule
By Bryan Sims | July 25, 2011

The aviation industry is ripe for the taking for biorefining firms to supply their biofuels in commercial flights. Englewood, Colo.-based isobutanol developer Gevo Inc. is on the fast track for seizing that opportunity.

In June, Gevo presented positive test results from “fit for purpose” testing of its biojet fuel to ASTM’s alcohol-to-jet task force, a group that consists of technical experts from a variety of stakeholders in the aviation supply chain, including jet engine manufacturers, government bodies, fuel manufacturers, third-party testing laboratories, academia and airframe manufacturers. Upon reviewing the results of the test, which was conducted by a nationally recognized research and development laboratory and the Air Force Research Laboratory, the task force had no objection to Gevo proceeding to jet engine testing, the next phase in the certification process. Mustang Engineering LP will convert Gevo’s isobutanol to biojet fuel. The engineering and consulting agreement with Mustang will focus on the downstream processing of isobutanol to biojet fuel for jet engine testing, airline suitability and advancing commercial deployment. According to Chris Ryan, president and chief operating officer, full certification of Gevo’s biojet fuel is expected in 2013.

“I can tell you that the data was perfectly in line with a drop-in fuel product and Gevo is excited about it,” Ryan tells Biorefining Magazine.

In July, the aviation industry reached a significant milestone with the approved revision of ASTM D7566, titled “Standard Specification for Aviation Turbine Fuel Containing Synthesized Hydrocarbons.” The approved annex, called “Hydroprocessed Esters and Fatty Acids” (HEFA), allows up to a 50/50 blend of biobased components derived from biomass such as camelina, jatropha or algae, with conventional jet fuel. If approved, Gevo’s biojet fuel would fall under the same specification in an alcohol-based pathway as obutanol. Although not its primary target market, Ryan says he’s confident that Gevo’s alcohol-to-jet pathway will follow on the successful revision the latest HEFA component received.

“It’s one of the key markets we’re pursuing,” Ryan says. Gevo is also targeting drop-in ready isobutanol for the transportation and chemicals markets. Ryan adds that end-users of its biojet fuel have already expressed interest once certification is complete. Gevo signed a letter of interest with United Airlines to purchase its future biojet fuel once it becomes certified. “We’re working with United Airlines to convert that into a definitive agreement,” Ryan says. 

—Bryan Sims