The Air Force Research Laboratory at Wright Patterson Air Force Base is testing jet fuel derived from algae produced by Dublin, Ohio based Independence Bio-Products (IBP). The algae was grown in open ponds in Ohio and harvested with the company’s patent pending harvest system. The tests are part of federally funded project to examine Algae to Fuel (ATF) processing technologies. According to IBP founder and President Ron Erd, the testing of the jet fuel sample has confirmed that the composition of the fuel is similar to fuels derived from other feedstocks including sobyeans, jatropha or camelina. This feedstocks are also being tested as jet fuel replacements.
Ohio is in the process of expanding the states “algaculture” industry. Three organizations are jointly working together on the project including the Ohio Aerospace Institute (OAI) of Brook Park, the Edison Materials Technology Center (EMTEC) of Dayton, and the Center for Innovative Food Technology (CIFT) of Toledo along with several other industry and university collaborators, including IBP. Three main areas are being researched:
1) selection of algae suitable for optimizing oil production based on climate factors
2) development of cultivation systems (growing locations, harvesting, dewatering, and separation techniques)
3) cultivation strategy (algae harvesting, processing into value-added products, etc.)
IBP has a proprietary technology where algae is cultivated in raceway ponds in Belmont County. Some of the ponds were heated using IBP’s patent pending system demonstrating operations throughout the winter. The algae was subsequently separated from water and dried followed by extraction and purification of the algae oil. The algae oil was upgraded to fuel by Applied Research Associates (ARA) of Panama City, FL using a catalytic hydrothermolysis (CH) process to convert the plant triglycerides to pure hydrocarbons very similar to their petroleum counterparts.
“The IBP development adds to the growing evidence that aviation fuel may be derived from domestically grown crops independent of foreign petroleum sources,” said Dr. Joseph Hager, Director Technology Transfer Programs. He continued by saying oil derived from Ohio-grown algae cultivated in open ponds demonstrates that this future fuel-producing crop may be sited in the harsher winter climates of the Midwest.