|The test plane takes off from Edwards Air Force Base. (US Air Force photo/Chad Bellay)|
Syntroleum announced that its Fischer-Tropsch (FT) jet fuel has been successfully tested in a United States Air Force B-52 Stratofortress Bomber aircraft.
The plane lifted off from Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., with a 50/50 blend of FT and traditional JP-8 jet fuel which was burned in two of the eight engines on the plane. This marks the first time that FT jet fuel has been tested in a military flight demo, and is the first of several planned test flights.
The test is a result of more than four years of successful research and development efforts with the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD), focused on producing a high-performance alternative fuel for military applications.
The program culminating in the test flight today is the first step in opening up new horizons for sourcing fuel for military purposes.—Bill Harrison, fuels expert with the Air Force Research Laboratory at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio
Undersecretary of the Air Force Dr. Ronald M. Sega was on the mission as a crewmember.
This test sets the stage for a more comprehensive plan the Air Force has toward conservation. This test fits into this overall vision and is the first step in a long process for looking at the viability of alternative fuels.—Dr. Sega
Dr. Sega said the engines running on the synthetic fuel performed as well as the others. But he is still waiting for test analysis and the final test results. The next step in the program will be an eight-engine test in a few months.
Before the manned flight, the Air Force Flight Test Center tested the fuel to see how it reacted to aircraft parts. The fuel ran a T-63 engine during 130 hours of fuel testing. One of the engines was then taken off the B-52 and sent to Tinker Air Force Base, Okla., where it went through a 50-hour continuous alternative fuel run.
The engines were reinstalled into the bomber and ground tested before the test flight.
After going through the testing at Edwards, the alternative fuel left in the bomber’s fuel tanks is scheduled to undergo cold-weather testing in January or February.
The fuel was produced at Syntroleum’s gas-to-liquids (GTL) FT demonstration facility near Tulsa, Okla. where it has produced more than 400,000 gallons of ultra clean products. This flight test is part of the DOD’s Assured Fuel Initiative, an effort to develop secure domestic sources for the military’s energy needs. The Pentagon hopes to reduce its use of crude oil and foreign producers and get about half of its aviation fuel from alternative sources by 2016.
Syntroleum’s jet fuel has shown superior performance characteristics compared to traditional aviation fuels. Prior testing by the military on the company’s FT fuels have shown a reduction in particulate matter and soot emissions of greater than 90% depending upon the turbine engine type compared to aviation fuels produced by refining crude oil.
The reduced particulate matter and soot emissions significantly improve engine efficiency, performance and overall air quality. In addition to the company’s work with the DOD, Syntroleum’s technology and FT products have been successfully tested in several government programs through the US Department of Energy’s ultra clean fuels program and with academic research institutions and auto manufacturers. One of the shuttle buses used at Edwards Air Force Base is running Syntroleum’s diesel fuel as part of an ongoing road test.
Although the jet fuel used in the B-52 test was produced from natural gas feedstock, the company points out the potential for using coal in the FT process as well.