Agriculture Secretary Vilsack highlights USDA, GE efforts to commercialize renewable jet fuel for Ohio aviation industry
US Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack highlighted USDA’s collaboration with General Electric (GE) Aviation, the Ohio Aerospace Institute, air carriers and producer groups to develop a Midwest-regional strategy to provide renewable-jet fuel at GE Aviation’s Cincinnati-area facilities.
The effort is bringing together agricultural producers, processing and transportation entities, refiners and finishers, academics and researchers, and analysts and financial entities. GE Aviation anticipates purchasing up to 5 million gallons of renewable-jet fuel beginning in 2015.
USDA recently awarded a Value Added Producer Grant to the Ohio Soybean Council to help initiate a pilot project through Ohio State University’s Bioproducts Innovation Center to refine bio-jet fuel from soybean oil produced by farmer-owners of Ohio’s Mercer Landmark cooperative in western Ohio.
Renewable-jet fuel produced from various plant oils (e.g. camelina, pennycress, inedible corn oil, algae) has been certified by the American Society of Testing and Materials for aviation use, and is currently being used in limited commercial service. Such a pilot project could provide the basis for commercializing renewable-jet fuel production for future aviation purchases.
USDA’s Farm Service Agency also has another energy crop production initiative underway in northeastern Ohio and northwestern Pennsylvania through the agency’s Biomass Crop Assistance Program (BCAP). About 115 contracts are signed to grow nearly 3,700 acres of the energy crop Miscanthus, a perennial grass that grows on previously underutilized lands in the area. Aloterra Energy has agreed to provide farmers technical assistance in planting and to purchase the new crop for future use in energy production—possibly as a feedstock for Midwest renewable fuel initiatives.
At Secretary Vilsack's direction, USDA is working to develop the national biofuels industry producing energy from non-food sources in every region of the country. Working with private and government partners, USDA is supporting research into innovative energy technologies and processes, helping companies build biorefineries—including the first ever commercial-scale cellulosic ethanol facilities—and supporting farmers, ranchers, and businesses taking risks to pursue new opportunities in biofuels.
A recent workshop at GE Aviation’s Queen City headquarters drew public-sector stakeholders such as USDA’s Renewable Energy Advisor Todd Campbell, Bill Harrison from the US Air Force Research Laboratory (Wright Patterson Air Force Base), and representatives from the offices of US Senator Sherrod Brown, Ohio Governor John Kasich, the Ohio Farm Bureau, and researchers from several regional universities.
GE Aviation’s interest is in forming a working group of committed parties to comprise an integrated supply chain for the production of renewable jet fuel, which would create an attractive business case for public and private investment to support renewable-jet fuel production in the region. In order to explore the formation of an initiative to meet its needs, GE Aviation has contracted with OAI to identify interested parties and evaluate potential options.