Until recently, the use of algae, oils and other renewable fuels have been introduced for jet fuel and gasoline in small amounts, usually 5-20% blended into petroleum. Still, it was pretty exciting when the first commercial flights ran on these fuels in November 2011.
But on October 29, 2012, the first civilian jet flew for an hour powered by 100% renewable biofuel.
Popular Science named the October 29th flight as one of the top 25 science events of 2012.
The airplane ran more efficiently than on petroleum aviation fuel and it produced half the aerosol emissions, 25% less particulates, and 49% less black carbon, all important climate change forcers, according to Canada's National Research Council, which measured the results.
Now, a demonstration project will take that a step closer to commercialization of 100% drop-in renewable replacement for jet, diesel, and gasoline fuels. And the partners believe the fuel will be cost-competitive with petroleum around 2015.
The process, ISOCONVERSION, converts oils from plants and algae into Renewable, Aromatic, Drop-in (Readi) fuels known as ReadiJet® and ReadiDiesel®. These fuels are ready to use, without blending, in turbine and diesel engines designed to operate on petroleum-based fuels.
The low-cost process converts any non-edible fats and oils directly into renewable fuels that are virtually indistinguishable from their petroleum counterparts.
It does so by using water to convert renewable oils into a crude oil intermediate, which is then hydrotreated and fractionated with conventional refinery catalysts and equipment into alternative fuels.
Applied Research Associates and Blue Sun Energy are working together on the design, construction, and operation of the demonstration project, which will produce 100 barrels a day. That's a big enough fuel sample to get ASTM certification for the fuels.
The project, in St. Joseph, Missouri, will break ground this quarter and be operational by fall. Blue Sun also operates a biodiesel facility there and is about to commercialize an enzymatic process that can produce the highest quality fuel from any feedstock at the lowest production costs in the US.
In March, competitors Airbus, Boeing and Brazil's Embraer announced they will work together to develop affordable biofuels for the airplane industry.
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