U.S. Navy files supersonic with Gevo ATJ

By Gevo Inc. | December 22, 2014

The U.S. Navy, Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR), and Gevo, Inc., the world's only commercial producer of renewable isobutanol, have announced the first successful alcohol-to-jet (ATJ) supersonic flight at the Naval Air Warfare Center in Patuxent River, Maryland. This is the first aviation test program to comprehensively test and evaluate the performance of a 50/50 ATJ blend in supersonic (above Mach 1) afterburner operations - a critical test to successfully clear the F/A-18 for ATJ operations through its entire flight envelope.

The U.S. Navy is exploring alternative fuels that can serve as drop-in replacements to petroleum, as the availability of additional fuel sources can increase resiliency for operational commanders and help reduce U.S. dependence on fossil fuels. The Navy Fuels Team at Patuxent River is leading the Navy's test and qualification efforts of alternative fuel sources. The F/A-18 testing is a significant milestone leading to a military specification (MIL-SPEC). This MIL-SPEC would allow for commercial supply of ATJ fuel to the Navy and Marines Corps.

Gevo's ATJ is produced at its demo biorefinery in Silsbee, Texas, using isobutanol produced at its Luverne, Minnesota, fermentation facility. Gevo is currently operating its Luverne plant in side-by-side operational mode, whereby isobutanol is being produced in one of the facility's four fermenters, while the other three fermenters are dedicated to ethanol production. The isobutanol that Gevo is producing is meeting product specifications for direct drop-in applications, as well as for use as a feedstock for the Silsbee biorefinery to produce hydrocarbons such as ATJ.

"We're extremely proud to have contributed to the U.S. Navy's successful ATJ test flights," said Patrick Gruber, CEO of Gevo. "These flights represent an accumulation of over four years of hard work involving innovative testing with multiple players and years of research. Together, we have proven that ATJ fuel is a viable alternative for both military and commercial applications. This is a great accomplishment for Gevo and the biofuels industry; we've validated that the isobutanol that we are successfully producing at Luverne, is an affordable, clean-burning, U.S.-made, drop-in fuel, that can also be further processed into direct replacement hydrocarbon products, such as ATJ fuel."

The F/A-18 Hornet is a single-and two-seat, twin engine, multi-mission fighter/attack aircraft that can operate from either aircraft carriers or land bases. Its engine thrust from 36,000 pounds to 44,000 pounds utilizing two General Electric F414 turbo-fan engines.