Gevo’s Biojet Fuel Catches Air

Gevo’s technology to convert wood waste to biojet fuel has achieved a breakthrough in its fermentation technology and will soon “catch air” as its soars in the sky in test flights. The wood waste is first converted to isobuanol and then converted into alcohol-to-jet fuel.

Gevo has an operational plant in Luverne, Minnesota that has flexible feedstock technology allowing the plant to produce isobutanol from multiple feedstocks. In the past the primary feedstock has been corn and the resulting fuel has been tested by airlines and the U.S. military in their planes. This new process uses forest residues. Removing waste helps to prevent forest fires.

tree copy

Photo Credit: Joanna Schroeder

According to the company, they have adapted their patented Gevo Integrated Fermentation Technology(R) (GIFT(R)) to convert the cellulosic sugars from wood into renewable isobutanol. They then use their patented hydrocarbon technology to convert the cellulosic isobutanol into alcohol-to-jet-synthetic paraffinic kerosene (ATJ-SPK) fuel.

“There are significant economic and environmental benefits of renewable jet fuel, which makes it a great market for Gevo. This announcement demonstrates the flexibility of our technology and reinforces our technology leadership,” said Dr. Pat Gruber, Chief Executive Officer of Gevo, Inc. “The next two milestones for renewable jet fuel are the approval by ASTM and the scheduled commercial test flights. Our team is actively engaged in both of these activities.”

Gevo’s cellulosic isobutanol production will be conducted at a demonstration facility in St. Joseph, MO, that the company jointly operates with ICM Inc. The ATJ-SPK will be produced in Silsbee, Texas, at the demonstration facility the company operates with South Hampton Resources.

The company is a member of the Northwest Advanced Renewables Alliance (NARA) and is providing the organization with technology to enable the commercial scale processing of cellulosic sugars from wood waste into valuable products. The cellulosic jet fuel made using Gevo’s technologies will be used in a 1,000-gallon renewable fuel demonstration test flight that NARA announced yesterday in conjunction with Alaska Airlines. Gevo’s isobutanol and ATJ-SPK technologies are both planned to be licensed by NARA as part of this project.

Ralph Cavalieri, director of NARA, added, “We’re encouraged by Gevo’s work with the NARA team in converting Pacific Northwest forest residual biomass into jet fuel, and look forward to working with them on this test flight and in the next phases of the commercialization of this technology.”

Alaska Airlines Commits to Renewable Fuel

Alaska Airlines has teamed up with Washington State University’s Northwest Advanced Renewable Alliance (NARA) to advance development on renewable jet fuel made from forest residues. As a result of the collaboration, Alaska Airlines plans on taking the aviation biofuels to the sky during a demonstration flight next year.

NARA is focusing on developing alternative jet fuel derived from post-harvest forest residuals, which are often burned after the timber harvest. By using these waste materials as the feedstock of a biojet fuel supply chain, NARA and its aviation industry partners, are looking to reduce fossil fuel use and greenhouse gas emissions as well as bolster sustainable economic-development potential in timber-based rural communities located throughout the Pacific Northwest.

Photo Credit: Northwest Advanced Renewables Alliance

Photo Credit: Northwest Advanced Renewables Alliance

“Alaska Airlines is thrilled to partner with NARA to help further promote sustainable aviation biofuels,” said Joe Sprague, Alaska Airlines senior vice president of external relations. “Sustainable biofuels are a key to aviation’s future and critical in helping the industry and Alaska Airlines reduce its carbon footprint and dependency on fossil fuels.”

NARA is a five-year project supported by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, National Institute of Food and Agriculture, and is comprised of 22 member organizations from industry, academia and government laboratories.

“Developing alternative jet fuel made from forest residuals represents a significant economic challenge with considerable sustainability benefits,” added Michael Wolcott, NARA co-director. “While the price of oil fluctuates, the carbon footprint of fossil fuels remains constant. NARA efforts to engage stakeholders from forest managers to potential fuel users like Alaska Airlines to lay the foundations for a bio-based, renewable fuel economy is exciting work that we believe will benefit society in the years ahead.”

Process to Make Renewable Fuel for Under $1/Gallon

duckweedusaA new process looks to make renewable fuel out of algae, waste water and even vegetable for under $1 per gallon. Duckweed USA says its new thermodynamically reversible process can make clean jet fuel, diesel fuel or gasoline from the less common feedstocks.

Using the patented Linear Venturi Kinetic Nozzle changes the aquatic-mass-to-energy process to one that requires no high-heat processes nor chemicals. 90% of the energy used in production is recoverable and feedstock is self-replenishing. With 3 variables in production cost nearly eliminated, the ideas of energy independence and financial self-sufficiency are now viable options at any level. For investors, no plummet in oil prices can spoil profitability projections when production is under $40 per barrel. Domestically and globally, this breakthrough opens doors to new opportunities of growth never before seen.

For stakeholders at any level, the bottom line is, as Michael Rigolizzo states, “Our system turns energy liabilities into assets. Every school bus that needs gasoline to every jet that needs fuel is a point of profit for synfuel-producing communities instead of a cost.” Duckweed believes its patented process could revolutionize the President’s action plan, the combination of energy types needed and especially the costs to be incurred by taxpayers. “By the time the 5-year initial phase of the action plan would be completed, the Duckweed process could be established – and turning profits – in every community along the Keystone Pipeline,” says Rigolizzo.

Duckweed says it already has interest from groups, such as Sparta, Georgia, Rutgers University and countries from Europe to Africa.

Vertimass Secures $2M BioJet Fuel Grant

Vertimass is in negotiations with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to receive a $2 million grant to aid them in commercilizing the conversion of their “green” catalyst technology that converts ethanol into gasoline, diesel and jet fuel blend stocks. The resultant fuel is compatible with current transportation fuVertimassel infrastructure.

The company has a world-wide exclusive license for the technology from Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL). Vertimass hopes to expand the ethanol market and believes that its fuel will be certified under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). According to the company, benefits of their technology include:

  • A single step conversion of ethanol into a hydrocarbon blend stock without the addition of hydrogen.
  • The ability to process between 5 percent and 100 percent of ethanol concentrations.
  • Production of minimal amounts of light gases.
  • Operation at relatively low temperature and atmospheric pressure.
  • The ability to shift product distributions in response to changing market demands. The technology, which dilutes ethanol streams, will result in higher yields to gasoline, jet fuel and diesel products and is expected to prolong the life of vehicles.

“This green catalyst technology can be rapidly added to an existing ethanol plant with low capital and operating costs while providing fuel flexibility and essentially replacing dehydration operations,” said Charles Wyman, Ph.D., president and chief executive officer of Vertimass. “With the ability to add operations to existing plants at a rapid pace and low cost, the new product will help meet the goals of Renewable Standard Fuel production and also help the Federal Aviation Administration achieve their target of 1 billion gallons of renewable aviation fuel by 2018.”

The new Vertimass technology has an estimated yearly production potential of 140 billion gallons. The technology would also expand opportunities to use more ethanol from corn in the U.S., sugarcane in Brazil and cellulosic biomass worldwide.

Boeing, COMAC to Open Biojet Demo Facility

Boeing and Commercial Aircraft Corp. of China (COMAC) have opened a demonstration facility that will produce aviation © Pascalinaclaudiu | Dreamstime.com - Collection Of Used Vegetable Oil In Italy Photobiofuels from used cooking oil or “gutter oil” as it is called in China. The companies estimate gutter oil could produce 500 million gallons (1.8 billion liters) of aviation biofuels each year.

“Strong and continuing teamwork between Boeing and COMAC is helping our industry make progress on environmental challenges that no single company or country can solve alone,” said Ian Thomas, President, Boeing China. “By working together for mutual benefit, we’re finding innovative ways to support China’s aviation industry and build a sustainable future.”

Boeing and COMAC are sponsoring the China-U.S. Aviation Biofuel Pilot Project. It will use a technology developed by Hangzhou Energy & Engineering Technology Co., Ltd. (HEET) to clean contaminants from waste oils and convert it into jet fuel at a rate of 160 gallons (650 liters) per day. The project’s goal is to assess the technical feasibility and cost of producing higher volumes of biofuel.

“We are very happy to see the progress that has been made in the collaboration between Boeing and COMAC, especially the achievement in aviation biofuel technology,” said Dr. Guangqiu Wang, Vice President of COMAC’s Beijing Aeronautical Science & Technology Research Institute. “We will continue to work with Boeing in energy conservation and emissions reduction areas to promote the sustainable development of the aviation industry.”

The Boeing Current Market Outlook forecasts that China will require more than 6,000 new airplanes by 2033 to meet fast-growing passenger demand for domestic and international air travel. Boeing and COMAC have been collaborating since 2012 through their Boeing-COMAC Aviation Energy Conservation and Emissions Reductions Technology Center. The biojet fuel produced by the project will meet international specifications approved in 2011 for jet fuel made from plant oils and animal fats. This type of biofuel has already been used for more than 1,600 commercial flights.

Southwest Airlines Inks Deal with Red Rock Biofuels

Southwest Airlines is partnering with Red Rock Biofuels (RBB), who recently received U.S. Department of Energy funding to produce aviation biofuels for the military, to purchase renewable jet fuel (biojet) produced from forest residues. The airline’s agreement with RRB covers the purchase of approximately three million gallons per year. The blended product will be used at Southwest’s Bay Area operations with first delivery expected in 2016.

“Our commitment to sustainability and efficient operations led us on a search for a viable biofuel that uses a sustainable feedstock with a high rate of success,” said Bill Tiffany, vice president of Supply Chain at Southwest Airlines HeartSouthwest Airlines. “Red Rock Biofuel’s technology, economics, and approved use made entering into an agreement for purchase a win-win situation.”

RRB’s first plant will convert approximately 140,000 dry tons of woody biomass feedstock into at least 12 million gallons per year of renewable jet, diesel, and naphtha fuels. It is hoped that the forest residues will help to reduce forest fires in states that are struggling with drought and dry conditions.

RRB’s CEO, Terry Kulesa added, “From the outset, we have sought to build the best possible team of project partners. A conversation we started with Southwest on the premise of providing renewable jet fuel at cost parity with conventional jet fuel has evolved into a great partnership. We’re happy to help Southwest diversify its fuel supply.”

Southwest is a long-time member of Commercial Aviation Alternative Fuels Initiative (CAAFI) which is a government and industry coalition for the development and deployment of alternative jet fuel for commercial aviation. As a member of CAAFI, the airline has followed the progress of alternative fuel technologies. Red Rock Biofuels is the first viable opportunity the airline has found to meet its financial and sustainability objectives.

Biorefineries to Produce Advanced Biofuels for Military

Today the Departments of Navy, Energy and Agriculture announced that three companies have been awarded contracts to construct and commission biorefineries to produce “drop-in” biofuels for the military and private sectors. Made through the Department of Defense’s (DOD) Defense Protection Act (DPA) of 1950, the awards support the Administration’s goals to boost and diversify the domestic fuel supply base, make American warfighters less beholden to volatile oil markets, and strengthen national security.

us logos“The contracts being announced today will help expand the operational capability of our Navy and Marine Corps around the world,” said Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus. “In today’s complex fiscal environment, we are balancing our mission with our resources and we must be innovative and forward-thinking. Programs like these help keep our operational capabilities on the cutting edge. This is how Sailors and Marines defend our great nation.”

In total, these projects will produce more than 100 million gallons of military grade fuel beginning in 2016 and 2017 at a price competitive with their petroleum counterparts.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said of the announcement, “This is a tremendous announcement for America’s national security and our economy. Any time our military can use more American grown fuels instead of relying on foreign sources it makes our armed forces more energy secure. And the expansion of our advanced biofuel sector means the creation of good jobs across the country, especially in many of our rural communities.”

The drop-in alternative fuels can be blended at a 50/50 ratio with traditional fossil fuels. This blend was successfully demonstrated during the Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) demonstration in 2012 for ships and planes, showing firsthand that this fuel can be utilized in Navy’s warfighting platforms with no degradation to performance or mission. As these fuels become more available, the Department of the Navy will make advanced drop-in biofuel a regular part of its bulk fuel procurement, ushering in the “new normal” of Naval supremacy.

“Advanced biomass-based transportation fuels have the potential to provide a reliable and cost-effective alternative to traditional fuel sources,” said Deputy Energy Secretary Daniel Poneman. “By advancing technologies that reduce our carbon emissions, this multi-agency partnership is demonstrating that by protecting our energy and environmental security, we will enhance our national security as well.”

The companies receiving federal investments for the construction and commissioning of biorefineries are:

  • Emerald Biofuels: To build an 82 million gallon per year refinery on the Gulf Coast using waste fats to create military grade fuel.
  • Fulcrum BioEnergy: To build a 10 million gallon per year refinery in McCarran, Nev. using municipal solid waste as its feedstock and the Fischer-Tropsch process to create fuel. On Sept. 4, USDA announced a $105 million Biorefinery Assistance Program loan guarantee to Fulcrum BioEnergy for the construction of this facility.
  • Red Rock Biofuels: To build a 12 million gallon per year refinery in Lakeview, Ore. using woody biomass, or the by-products of forest management, as its feedstock and the Fischer-Tropsch process to create a refined product.

This effort brought by the U.S. Departments of Agriculture, Energy, and Navy, along with partners in the private sector, will expand military fuel sources, improving the reliability of our overall fuel supply, adding resilience against supply disruptions, and giving the military more fuel options to maintain its readiness and defend the national security interests of the United States.

Cathay Pacific Airlines Invests with Fulcrum BioEnergy

Cathay Pacific Airways is the first airline investor in Fulcrum BioEnergy, Inc. The investments was made as part of the airline’s biofuel strategy and to help it achieve a target of carbon-neutral growth from 2020. Fulcrum is focused on the development and commercialization of converting municipal solid waste into sustainable aviation fuel or “biojet fuel”. Cathay Pacific also has an option for further investment.

“We are very pleased to become the first airline investor in this sustainable biofuel developer. We are well aware of the impact the aviation industry has on the environment Cathay-Pacific-Logoand have been doing a great deal to minimize our own impact,” said Cathay Pacific Chief Executive Ivan Chu. “We are pleased to have identified Fulcrum as a strategic business partner that has the necessary vision and technological know-how to help Cathay Pacific pursue the use of biojet fuels. These fuels are an important component of our sustainable development strategy, under which we aim to achieve carbon-neutral growth from 2020.”

Cathay Pacific has also negotiated a long-term supply agreement with Fulcrum for an initial 375 million U.S. gallons of sustainable aviation fuel over 10 years (representing on an annual basis approximately 2% of the airline’s current fuel consumption) that meets all the airline’s technical requirements and specifications. Fulcrum plans to commence construction of its first commercial plant later this year and to build large scale, waste-to-renewable jet fuel plants at multiple locations, including locations strategic to the Cathay Pacific network, primarily in North America.

Cathay Pacific Biofuel Manager Jeff Ovens said of their technology, “Fulcrum has successfully demonstrated a process of converting municipal solid waste feedstock into sustainable aviation fuel at its scale demonstration facility. The feedstock will be pre-sorted to remove any recyclables prior to being processed into fuels. The company has proved that its technology is viable and has supply commitments in place for feedstock needed for the fuel production. These supply commitments will cover both near-term and future developments.”

According to Jim Macias, CEO of Fulcrum BioEnergy, jet fuel produced by Fulcrum’s waste-to-fuels process will reduce lifecycle carbon emissions when used in aircraft or road Fulcrum logotransport by more than 80 percent when compared to traditional fuels derived from crude oil and other fossil sources. This process also reduces the amount of municipal solid waste going into landfill sites and the methane gas emissions that result from this. If not captured, methane gas is 21 times more potent than carbon dioxide as a global warming contributor.

“We value our strategic relationship with Cathay Pacific, one of the world’s premier airlines. Cathay Pacific shares our vision and plan to bring a whole new source of sustainable fuel to the airline industry,” added Macias. “A new fuel that has the exact same molecules as fossil fuel but is cleaner, lower in carbon, renewable and lower cost than traditional fossil fuels. Cathay Pacific is really stepping up to help accelerate deliveries of this fuel to the market. This relationship adds to Fulcrum’s existing feedstock, technology and fuel off-take partners that enhance Fulcrum’s low-cost business model for the production and sale of large volumes of low-carbon, jet fuel.”

Boeing & SAA Collborate on BioJet Fuel From Tobacco

Boeing, South African Airways (SAA) and SkyNRG are partnering together to develop aviation biofuel from a specific type of tobacco plant. SkyNRG is currently expanding its production of Solaris, an energy crop hybrid derived from the tobacco plant. Pilot farming of the plant, which is effectively nicotine-free, is underway in South Africa with to end goal of producing advanced biojet fuel from the seeds. As the program expands, Boeing expects emerging technologies to increase South Africa’s aviation biofuel production from the rest of the plant.

The project is an effort to expand the support of South Africa’s goals for improved public health along with economic and rural development.

Tobacco Photos“It’s an honor for Boeing to work with South African Airways on a pioneering project to make sustainable jet fuel from an energy-rich tobacco plant,” said J. Miguel Santos, managing director for Africa, Boeing International. “South Africa is leading efforts to commercialize a valuable new source of biofuel that can further reduce aviation’s environmental footprint and advance the region’s economy.”

In October 2013, Boeing and SAA agreed they would work together to develop a sustainable aviation biofuel supply chain in Southern Africa. As part of that effort, they are working with the Roundtable on Sustainable Biomaterials to position farmers with small plots of land to grow biofuel feedstocks that provide socioeconomic value to communities without harming food supplies, fresh water or land use.

Ian Cruickshank, South African Airways Group Environmental Affairs Specialist said of the expanded project, “By using hybrid tobacco, we can leverage knowledge of tobacco growers in South Africa to grow a marketable biofuel crop without encouraging smoking. This is another way that SAA and Boeing are driving development of sustainable biofuel while enhancing our region’s economic opportunity.”

“We strongly believe in the potential of successfully rolling out Solaris in the Southern African region to power sustainable fuels that are also affordable,” added Maarten van Dijk, Chief Technology Officer, SkyNRG.

Amyris & GOL Take to the Skies with Biojet Fuel

Amyris along with Brazilian airline GOL have flown the industry’s first commercial flight with farnesane, a recently approved jet fuel. Flight 7725 left from Orlando, Florida July 30 at 5:15 pm ET and landed in Sao Paulo, Brazil.

GOL committed to fly its Boeing 737 fleet with up to a 10 percent blend of the renewable farnesane fuel starting with this initial flight on July 30, 2014. According to Amyris, Farnesane can reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by up to 80 percent compared to petroleum fuels. When blended with Jet A/A1 fuel at 10 percent, farnesane can also reduce particulate matter emissions, decreasing pollution near airports and major metropolitan areas.

The global aviation industry has committed to aggressive goals to reduce its GHG emissions, including achieving carbon neutral growth by 2020 and reducing emissions by 50 percent by 2050 compared to 2005. In addition to improving the efficiency of airplanes and flight operations, this renewable biofuel represents a major opportunity for commercial aviation to reduce emissions. The approved renewable jet fuel is drop-in and can be blended directly with petroleum jet fuel without any changes to airplanes, engines or fueling infrastructure. Amyris will now begin to quantitatively measure the positive impact to GHG emissions and air quality with every flight using the renewable jet fuel.