Alternative fuel for aviation
Last month I mentioned steps taken by Continental Airlines and Alaska Airlines to use more biofuels to power their aircraft and reduce carbon emissions. They both flew commercial flights with a biofuel mix for the first time and are investing in biofuel production and distribution networks.
The Federal Aviation Administration on Dec. 1 awarded $7.7 million in grants to eight companies to stimulate an alternative energy industry for the aviation sector.
The eight firms will help the FAA develop and
approve alternative “drop-in” jet fuels that can be used without changing aircraft engine systems or airport refueling infrastructure. The alternative fuels will come from sustainable sources such as alcohols, sugars, biomass and organic materials known as pyrolysis oils. In addition, the contracts call for research into alternative jet fuel quality control, examination of how jet biofuels affect engine durability, and development of guidance to jet biofuel users about factors that affect
The contracts build on work done by the Defense Department and other agencies to develop alternative fuels.
On Dec. 5, the Defense Logistics Agency made the largest-ever government purchase of biofuel to be used in the U.S. Navy’s demonstration of a Green Strike Group in the summer of 2012 during a huge international maritime exercise involving Pacific Rim nations. The 450,000 gallons of biofuel – a third of it jet fuel – is made from a blend of used cooking oil from Louisiana-based Dynamic Fuels LLC and algae produced by
Dynamic Fuels is a joint venture between Tyson Foods and Syntroleum Corp. Renewable jet fuel made by Dynamic Fuels has already been used in regularly scheduled commercial flights by KLM, Finnair and Alaska.
Solazyme is the company that provided the biofuel blend to Continental. Parent company United Continental Holdings has announced that it plans to purchase 20 million gallons of biofuel per year from Solazyme in San Francisco.
The Navy said it recently completed testing of all aircraft, including the F/A-18 used by the Blue Angels demonstration team and several patrol craft and other vessels, in preparation for the exercise.
President Obama is pushing advanced biofuels for military and commercial use as part of his energy security policy.
The federal government’s commitment to procure more energy from renewable sources is expected to help commercialize the industry and bring down prices. The Defense Logistics Agency said its purchase of the biofuel was half the price it paid for biofuel in 2009.
In October, Spain’s Iberia airline was the first in the country to have a commercial flight using a plant-derived fuel. An Airbus A320 flew from Madrid to Barcelona using a blend of fuel made from the inedible camelina plant.
The fuel was produced by UOP LLC of Des Plaines, Ill., a unit of Honeywell International, one of the companies that received the FAA grant.
The camelina plant grows wildly in Spain and can actually enrich the soil in which it grows, according to Iberia.
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