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[Due to the increasing size of the archives, each topic page now contains only the prior 365 days of content. Access to older stories is now solely through the Monthly Archive pages or the site search function.]

NASA awards Aerojet Rocketdyne $67M to develop advanced solar electric propulsion system for space

April 20, 2016

NASA has awarded Aerojet Rocketdyne a $67-million contract to design and develop an Advanced Electric Propulsion System (AEPS) for spaceflight. Work performed under the contract could potentially increase spaceflight transportation fuel efficiency by 10 times over current chemical propulsion technology and more than double thrust capability compared to current electric propulsion systems.

Such a system could significantly advance the nation’s commercial space capabilities, and enable deep space exploration missions, including the robotic portion of NASA’s Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM) and its Journey to Mars, NASA said.

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JBEI team engineers E. coli for one-pot production of bio-jet fuel precursor from ionic-liquid-pretreated biomass

April 13, 2016

A team led by researchers at the DOE’s Joint BioEnergy Institute (JBEI) in Emeryville, CA, has engineered E. coli bacteria for the one-pot production of the monoterpene bio-jet fuel precursor D-limonene from ionic-liquid-pretreated cellulose and switchgrass. A paper on their work is published in the RSC journal Green Chemistry.

The ionic liquid 1-ethyl-3-methylimidazolium acetate is highly effective in deconstructing lignocellulose, but leaves behind residual reagents that are toxic to standard saccharification enzymes and the microbial production host. The JBEI researchers discovered a strain of E. coli that is tolerant to that ionic liquid due to a specific mutation. They engineered this strain to express a D-limonene production pathway.

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Airbus Group and Siemens sign long-term agreement to develop hybrid-electric propulsion systems for aircraft

April 07, 2016

Airbus Group and Siemens have signed a collaboration agreement in the field of hybrid electric propulsion. In doing so, the Chief Executive Officers (CEO) of both companies, Tom Enders and Joe Kaeser, have launched a major joint project towards the electrification of aviation with the goal of demonstrating the technical feasibility of various hybrid/electric propulsion systems by 2020.

Airbus Group and Siemens plan to develop prototypes jointly for various propulsion systems with power classes ranging from a few 100 kilowatts up to 10 and more megawatts, i.e. for short, local trips with aircraft below 100 seats, helicopters or UAVs up to classic short and medium-range journeys.

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ASTM ballot greenlights approval of ATJ-SPK biojet from alcohol; Gevo 1st commercial test flight with Alaska Airlines

March 29, 2016

Renewable isobutanol company Gevo announced that the ASTM International Committee D02 on Petroleum Products, Liquid Fuels, and Lubricants and Subcommittee D02.J on Aviation Fuel passed a concurrent ballot this week approving the revision of ASTM D7566 (Standard Specification for Aviation Turbine Fuel Containing Synthesized Hydrocarbons) to include alcohol-to-jet synthetic paraffinic kerosene (ATJ-SPK) (the “D02.J Ballot”). (Earlier post.)

This approval prepares the way for the use of Gevo ATJ—as well as ATJ-SPK fuels produced by other manufacturers—in commercial operations. As previously announced, Alaska Airlines is now poised to fly the first commercial test flight using Gevo’s renewable ATJ-SPJ fuel. (Earlier post.) Gevo is preparing the shipment of ATJ to Alaska Airlines for this first flight. Alaska Airlines will work with the Federal Aviation Administration to schedule the flight using Gevo’s ATJ.

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United Airlines begins commercial-scale use of renewable jet fuel; 15M gallons over 3-year period

March 12, 2016

United Airlines has become the first US airline to begin use of commercial-scale volumes of sustainable aviation biofuel for regularly scheduled flights, beginning with the departure of United Flight 708 from Los Angeles International Airport (LAX). The launch marks a milestone in the commercial aviation industry by moving beyond demonstration flights and test programs to the use of advanced biofuels for United’s ongoing revenue operations.

United has agreed to purchase up to 15 million gallons of sustainable biofuel from AltAir Paramount over a three-year period. The biofuel will be mixed with traditional jet fuel at a 30/70 blend ratio: 30% biofuel, 70% traditional fuel. The airline has begun using the biofuel in its daily operations at LAX, storing and delivering it in the same way as traditional fuel.

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NASA awards Lockheed Martin team $20M for preliminary design work on new quiet supersonic passenger aircraft

March 04, 2016

NASA has awarded a contract for the preliminary design of a quiet, “low boom” supersonic flight demonstration aircraft—the first in a new series of ‘X-planes’ in NASA’s New Aviation Horizons initiative, introduced in the agency’s Fiscal Year 2017 budget. The 10-year New Aviation Horizons initiative has the goals of reducing fuel use, emissions and noise through innovations in aircraft design that departs from the conventional tube-and-wing aircraft shape.

NASA selected a team led by Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Company to complete a preliminary design for Quiet Supersonic Technology (QueSST). Lockheed Martin will receive about $20 million over 17 months for QueSST preliminary design work. The Lockheed Martin team includes subcontractors GE Aviation and Tri Models Inc.. The work will be conducted under a task order against the Basic and Applied Aerospace Research and Technology (BAART) contract at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia.

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New route to renewable diesel and jet from biomass-derived platform compounds

February 29, 2016

Researchers in China have developed a new route to the production of renewable diesel and jet fuel-range branched alkanes by combining the hydroxyalkylation/alkylation (HAA) of 2-methylfuran (MF)—a biomass-derived platform compound—with angelica lactone—another biomass-derived compound—and subsequent hydrodeoxygenation.

Under solvent-free conditions, the researchers obtained 81.3% yield of HAA products; after the HDO of the hydrogenated HAA products over 5 wt% Pd/C catalyst, they achieved 81.0% carbon yield of diesel or jet fuel-range alkanes. Compared to a 2-MF–levulinic acid (or ester) route proposed in their earlier work, the new 2-MF–angelica lactone route offers higher HAA reactivity.

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Process for production of jet-range hydrocarbons from crude Jatropha oil using hydrogen produced in-situ from formic acid

February 16, 2016

A team at the Korea Institute of Energy Research has developed a catalytic process for the production of jet-range oxygen-free hydrocarbons from crude Jatropha oil, using hydrogen produced in-situ from formic acid.

In a fixed bed reaction using a mixture of crude Jatropha oil and formic acid, normal hydrocarbon in the range of C10–C18 (mostly C15 and C17) was the main product—about 97% in the liquid product—and the degree of deoxygenation was about 99.5%. A paper on their work is published in the journal Fuel.

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New ICAO aircraft CO2 standard one step closer to final adoption after recommendation by CAEP

February 09, 2016

An aircraft CO2 emissions standard has made further and important headway at the UN’s International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). The new environmental measure was unanimously recommended by the 170 international experts on ICAO’s Committee on Aviation Environmental Protection (CAEP), paving the way for its ultimate adoption by the UN agency’s 36-State Governing Council.

Under the CAEP recommendation, the new CO2 emissions standard would not only be applicable to new aircraft type designs as of 2020, but also to new deliveries of current in-production aircraft types from 2023. A cut-off date of 2028 for production of aircraft that do not comply with the standard was also recommended. In its current form, the standard equitably acknowledges CO2 reductions arising from a range of possible technology innovations, whether structural, aerodynamic or propulsion-based.

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First UAV test flight with Cella solid-state hydrogen storage and fuel-cell power system

February 08, 2016

The Scottish Association for Marine Science (SAMS) recently completed a UAV test flight using Cella Energy’s hydrogen-based power system. The system is based on Cella’s solid, nanostructured chemical hydride hydrogen storage material which is capable of releasing large quantities of hydrogen when heated. Cella Energy is a spin-off from STFC’s Rutherford Appleton Laboratory in the UK. (Earlier post.)

Cella designed and built a gas generator using this material, which when combined with a fuel cell, creates electrical power. The complete system—Cella gas generator along with a fuel cell supplied and integrated by Arcola Energy—is considerably lighter than the lithium-ion battery it replaced.

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Oslo Airport first to supply Air BP renewable biojet via main fuel hydrant system; initial batch from Neste

January 23, 2016

In a first for commercial aviation, Air BP, together with Norwegian airport operator Avinor, and sustainable biofuel specialist SkyNRG, announced that all airlines landing at Oslo Airport can have jet biofuel delivered from the airport’s main fuel farm, via the existing hydrant mechanism.

Lufthansa Group was the first airline to confirm that it will uplift the Air BP aviation biofuel at Oslo, and began by refueling an Airbus A320 aircraft. Further airlines including Scandinavian national carrier SAS and KLM Royal Dutch Airlines confirmed they will also purchase jet biofuel at Oslo.

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Testing shows Virent SAK bio-jet provides more than 50% reduction in PM emissions while maintaining engine performance

January 07, 2016

Bio-jet emissions testing by Rolls-Royce, supported by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) under the Continuous Lower Energy, Emissions, and Noise (CLEEN) program, has confirmed that jet fuels containing Virent’s BioForm Synthesized Aromatic Kerosene (SAK) fuel blend produced a greater than 50% reduction in particulate matter emissions compared to conventional jet fuel.

The testing thus verified the potential for the SAK fuel to reduce the adverse environmental impact and health effects resulting from jet fuel combustion. The emissions data and other successfully completed test results have been summarized in a report released by Rolls-Royce, British Airways, and the FAA.

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Study shows branched ketone biofuels derived from alcohols have potential for use in aviation fuel blends

December 25, 2015

Researchers at the University of Bath (UK) have demonstrated that branched ketone biofuels produced from the alkylation of isoamyl alcohol and isobutanol with acetone have the potential to be used as blending agents with Jet A-1 fuel. A paper on their work is published in the ACS journal Energy & Fuels.

Although the technology to produce cellulosic ethanol is becoming established, ethanol’s low energy density and high affinity for water have led to the development of higher energy density alochol alternatives such as n-butanol, isoamyl alcohol, and isobutanol. However, the water affinity, low flash point, and low boiling point still make these compounds unsuitable for aviation use without further upgrading.

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Bauhaus Luftfahrt analysis finds solar thermochemical jet fuel production viable only if CO2 captured from renewable sources and not flue gases

December 23, 2015

A team from Bauhaus Luftfahrt in Germany has analyzed the climate impact and economic performance of solar thermochemical jet fuel production. According to their analysis, published in the ACS journal Environmental Science & Technology, favorable assumptions for all involved process steps (30% thermochemical energy conversion efficiency; 3000 kWh/(m2 a) solar irradiation, low CO2 and heliostat costs) result in jet fuel production costs of €1.28/L (US$5.30/gallon) at lifecycle (LC) GHG emissions close to zero (0.10 kgCO2‐equiv/L.

The non-profit Bauhaus Luftfahrt is an internationally-oriented think tank created in November 2005 by the three aerospace companies EADS (today Airbus Group); Liebherr-Aerospace; and MTU Aero Engines as well as the Bavarian Ministry for Economic Affairs. In January 2012, IABG-Industrieanlagen-Betriebsgesellschaft became the latest member of the institution.

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$3M UK project to develop low-carbon aviation fuels from captured CO2 and waste biomass

December 22, 2015

Heriot-Watt University in the UK will lead a £2-million (US$3-million) project (EP/N009924/1) to develop low-carbon aviation fuels from captured CO2 and waste biomass. The multi-disciplinary project, funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) will be led by Heriot-Watt engineers and scientists in conjunction with teams from Aston and Oxford Universities and the University of Edinburgh.

The project aims to produce low-carbon synthetic aviation jet fuel using renewable energy from waste agricultural and forestry biomass and captured CO2. The project team will use integrated chemistry (a bottom-up method to develop novel catalysts and electrodes) and engineering (a top-down method to tailor heat and mass transport parameters influencing reaction conditions) with a focus on high selective and efficient jet fuel production.

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EPS advancing diesel engine for general aviation applications; 30-50% lower fuel consumption than gasoline

December 19, 2015

Engineered Propulsion Systems (EPS) has developed and is advancing a 4.3-liter, 8-cylinder diesel engine for general aviation (GA) applications. Based on a CGI (compacted graphite iron) cylinder block, the Graflight V-8 (formerly called the Vision 350, earlier post) will enable 30-50% lower fuel consumption and emissions compared to conventional aero engines, according to the company.

As an example, EPS suggests that a Cirrus SR22 (a single-engine four- or five-seat composite aircraft) fitted with the Graflight V-8 could carry the equivalent of two additional passengers flying the same distance as with a Continental gasoline 315 horsepower engine while still realizing a 40% reduction in fuel cost. Engine and flight tests are currently underway and EPS expects Federal Aviation Authority approvals during 2017.

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Port of Seattle partners with Alaska Airlines and Boeing to supply sustainable aviation biofuel at Sea-Tac Airport

December 18, 2015

The Port of Seattle, Alaska Airlines and Boeing are partnering to move toward powering all flights by all airlines at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport with sustainable aviation biofuel. Sea-Tac is the first US airport to lay out a long-term roadmap to incorporate aviation biofuel into its infrastructure in a cost-effective, efficient manner.

At the Sea-Tac fuel farm earlier this week, executives for the port, Alaska Airlines, and Boeing signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to launch a $250,000 Biofuel Infrastructure Feasibility Study that will assess costs and infrastructure necessary to deliver a blend of aviation biofuel and conventional jet fuel to aircraft at Sea-Tac.

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New catalytic process to convert lignin into jet-range hydrocarbons

December 11, 2015

Researchers at Washington State University (WSU) Tri-Cities have developed a catalytic process to convert corn stover lignin into hydrocarbons (C7–C18)—primarily C12–C18 cyclic structure hydrocarbons in the jet fuel range. The work is featured on the cover of the December issue of the RSC journal Green Chemistry.

The developer of the process, Bin Yang, an associate professor of biological systems engineering at WSU and his team are working with Boeing Co. to develop and test the hydrocarbons targeted to be jet fuel. Yang has filed for a patent on the process, with WSU as the assignee.

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Boeing, Canadian aviation industry launch sustainable aviation biofuel project using forestry waste

December 03, 2015

Boeing, the University of British Columbia (UBC) and SkyNRG, with support from Canada’s aviation industry and other stakeholders, are collaborating to turn leftover branches, sawdust and other forest-industry waste into sustainable aviation biofuel.

Canada, which has extensive sustainably certified forests, has long used mill and forest residues to make wood pellets that are used to generate electricity. A consortium that includes Boeing, Air Canada, WestJet, Bombardier, research institutions and industry partners will assess whether forest waste could also be harnessed to produce sustainable aviation biofuel using thermochemical processing.

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euglena planning commercial production of biojet and renewable diesel from algae in Japan

December 02, 2015

Japan-based euglena Co. plans to produce and supply biojet and renewable diesel in Japan at commercial scale in the 2020s with support from the City of Yokohama, Chiyoda Corporation, Itochu Enex Co., Isuzu Motors and All Nippon Airways (ANA). The company will build Japan’s first demonstration plant for the production of biojet/biodiesel fuels in Yokohama, with operations planned to begin in 2018.

The company has been investigating the production of biojet from the microalgae Euglena since May 2010 (earlier post) and has also partnered with Isuzu in research on next-generation (i.e. drop-in hydrocarbon) renewable diesel production from Euglena since June 2014. In June 2015, the company signed a Technology License Agreement for the ISOCONVERSION process with Chevron Lummus Global and Applied Research Associates (ARA). (Earlier post.)

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ICCT benchmarking report finds wide 51% gap between most- and least- fuel-efficient transatlantic airlines

November 17, 2015

The gap between the most- (Norwegian Air Shuttle) and least- (British Airways) fuel-efficient airlines on 2014 transatlantic operations was 51%—roughly twice the performance gap between the best and worst US airlines on domestic operations (25% in 2014), according to a newly released study by the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT). The new report is an extension of ICCT’s work benchmarking US airline fuel efficiency on domestic operations since 2010 (earlier post).

The gap in carbon intensity on international flights is larger than expected, which holds implication for ongoing efforts by policymakers to constrain emissions growth.

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Bio-isobutanol company Gevo enters major licensing and development agreement with Praj

November 10, 2015

Gevo, Inc. has entered into a license agreement and a joint development agreement with Praj Industries Limited to enable the licensing of Gevo’s isobutanol technology to processors of non-corn based sugars, including the majority of Praj’s global customer base of ethanol plant owners. The two companies had signed a memorandum of understanding on licensing earlier this year. (Earlier post.)

As part of these agreements, Praj will invest substantial resources in the development and optimization of Gevo’s isobutanol technology for use with non-corn feedstocks including sugar cane, sugar beets, cassava, rice, sorghum, wheat and certain cellulosic sugars. This development work is anticipated to lead to process design packages (PDP) that would be expected to accelerate the licensing of Gevo technology to processors of these, particularly in Praj’s extensive customer base. The development work is expected to build upon the PDP that Gevo already has developed for corn, translating it to other feedstocks and plant configurations.

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EIA: More than 1 billion gallons of renewable drop-in diesel/jet produced worldwide in 2014

November 09, 2015

More than one billion gallons of hydroprocessed esters and fatty acids (HEFA) fuels—renewable, drop-in diesel and jet fuels such as Neste’s NEXBTL—were produced worldwide in 2014, according to the US Energy Information Administration (EIA).

HEFA fuels are hydrocarbons rather than alcohols or esters and are the most common drop-in biofuels; they can be used in diesel engines without the need for blending with petroleum diesel fuel. Currently, HEFA fuels are also approved by ASTM International for use in jet engines at up to a 50% blend rate with petroleum jet fuel.

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Neste and Boeing to partner on commercialization of renewable aviation fuels

November 05, 2015

Neste, the leading producer of renewable diesel and Boeing, the world’s largest aircraft manufacturer, will work together to promote and accelerate the commercialization of renewable aviation fuel.

The companies will work toward ASTM International fuel standard approval allowing the commercial use of high freezing point (hfp) renewable aviation fuel by airlines. The goal is also to gain widespread market acceptance for renewable aviation fuels, and to progress sustainability accreditation efforts.

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ICCT updates US airline fuel efficiency rankings; Alaska stays on top, American on bottom

October 22, 2015

The International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT) has released its annual update on the fuel efficiency of US airlines. (Earlier post.) The report, which covers US airlines in domestic operations in 2014, highlights a continuing gap in the carbon intensity of US carriers, and comes as the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) meets in Montreal to debate proposals that will serve as the basis for future US regulation.

The ICCT team found that the gap between most- and least-efficient airlines has narrowed slightly to 25%, and overall industry fuel efficiency has improved by 1.7% on an RPM (revenue passenger miles) per fuel basis, due in large part to a 1% increase in average passenger load factor to 84% in 2014and higher seating densities (and greater passenger discomfort) on domestic flights.

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SG Preston and IHI E&C partner on portfolio of renewable diesel and jet plants; 5 initial sites, 600M gallons total capacity

SG Preston, a Philadelphia-based bioenergy company, is partnering with IHI E&C, a Houston-based engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) subsidiary of Japan’s IHI Corporation, to develop and to construct a series of commercial-scale renewable diesel and jet fuel manufacturing plants, initially in the US Midwest and Canada.

The plants will use licensed, proven, commercial-scale technologies for the production of renewable diesel and jet fuel targeting US and global industries seeking a volume-based, competitively priced solution to their environmental sustainability mandates. SG Preston will deploy its biofuels strategy initially at five plants (South Point and Van Wert, Ohio; Logansport, Indiana; and two additional, to-be-announced sites, one in Michigan, and one in Ontario, Canada), each with an initial capacity to produce 120 million gallons of renewable diesel and jet fuel annually.

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DLR developing four-passenger fuel cell aircraft

October 15, 2015

The German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) is developing a four-passenger aircraft powered solely by a hydrogen fuel cell battery system. DLR presented the HY4 project at the International Trade Fair World of Energy Solutions this week in Stuttgart.

HY4 uses a hybrid system: the main power source is a low-temperature Proton Exchange Membrane (PEM) fuel cell, which continuously supplies the electric motor with durable and reliable power. A high-performance lithium battery covers peak power loads during take-off and when climbing.

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DLR wrapping up ECLIF in-flight study of emissions from alternative aviation fuels; potential for improved fuel design

October 09, 2015

In a three-week series of flight tests lasting until 9 October 2015, the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) has been investigating how to reduce the impact of air transport on the climate by using alternative fuels. The testing is part of DLR’s Emission and Climate Impact of Alternative Fuels (ECLIF) project.

ECLIF is analyzing the emissions produced by alternative fuels using the full range of methods available at DLR—from combustion analysis in the laboratories of the DLR Institute of Combustion Technology and tests in the combustion chamber test facilities at the DLR Institute of Propulsion Technology, through to the exhaust gas measurements conducted by the DLR Institute of Atmospheric Physics now taking place during the flight trials.

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Caltech, JPL designed megasupramolecule fuel additive reduces intensity of post-impact fuel explosions

October 02, 2015

Researchers at Caltech and JPL used statistical mechanics to design a polymeric fuel additive that can self-assemble into “megasupramolecules” (≥5000 kg/mol) at low concentration (≤0.3 weight percent) and thus can reduce the intensity of post-impact fuel explosions that occur during accidents and terrorist acts.

Furthermore, preliminary results show that the additive can provide this benefit without adversely affecting fuel performance. The work is published in the journal Science.

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FAA awards $100M to 8 companies for CLEEN II development; lower fuel consumption, emissions and noise

September 09, 2015

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has awarded $100 million in contracts to eight companies to develop and to demonstrate aviation technologies that reduce fuel consumption, emissions, and noise under the second phase of its Continuous Lower Energy, Emissions, and Noise (CLEEN II) program. (The CLEEN II solicitation was posted in October 2014.)

The five-year CLEEN II program will build on the success of the original CLEEN program, a public-private partnership that began in 2010 and is a key part of the FAA’s NextGen efforts to make aviation more environmentally friendly. (Earlier post.) The CLEEN team focused on nine projects in the area of energy efficient aircraft technologies and sustainable alternative jet fuels. The first of these technologies will enter service in 2016.

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Global Bioenergies joins aireg to push jet fuel application of its isobutene process; isododecane

September 08, 2015

France-based Global Bioenergies, a company developing a processes to convert renewable resources into hydrocarbons through fermentation, has joined aireg (Aviation Initiative for Renewable Energy in Germany e.V.) aireg, an organization promoting the development and use of renewable liquid fuels in aviation, aims to replace 10% of German jet fuel demand with sustainable, alternative aviation fuels by 2025.

Global Bioenergies, which is currently developing its demonstration plant in Leuna, Germany, will soon be able to produce alternative jet fuel from sugars. Earlier this year, the company reported the successful conversion of renewable resources first into gaseous isobutene via fermentation, which was then subsequently catalytically oligomerized into a mix of fuel-range liquid hydrocarbons. (Earlier post.) The resulting product slate contained isooctane; isododecane (C12H26, a highly branched alkane well-suited for the aviation market); isocetane; as well as longer strings.

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ICCT: industry lagging UN fuel efficiency goals for new commercial aircraft by about 12 years; need for a CO2 standard

September 03, 2015

Reductions in the average fuel burn of new commercial aircraft have returned to the long-term average after stagnating from 2000 to 2010. However, according to a new report from the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT), manufacturers continue to lag the UN’s fuel efficiency goals for new aircraft; on average, industry is about 12 years behind the 2020 and 2030 aspirational goals established by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).

The authors of the ICCT report, which updates its 2009 report on the topic (earlier post), do expect to see an accelerating improvement rate in the foreseeable future due to the introduction of new, more efficient aircraft designs such as the a320neo, 737 MaX, and 777X. Despite that, when comparing the ICAO fuel burn technology goals (a 40% improvement in fuel efficiency for new single-aisle (SA) and small twin-aisle (STA) aircraft in 2020 relative to 2000 levels) with fuel burn trend projections, they found the 12-year time lag between the projected fuel burn improvement and the time needed to reach ICAO’s goals.

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Butamax and Gevo cross-license & settle litigation on bio-isobutanol; Butamax to lead w/ gasoline blending, Gevo w/ alcohol-to-jet

August 24, 2015

Gevo, Inc. and Butamax Advanced Biofuels, LLC, a joint venture between BP and DuPont, have entered into worldwide patent cross-license and settlement agreements, ending a patent dispute that stretches back to 2011 related to technologies for the production of bio-based isobutanol. (Earlier post.)

This settlement ends all of the lawsuits and creates a new relationship between the companies, aimed at leveraging each other’s strengths and accelerating development of competitive supply for bio-based isobutanol.

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RedRock Biofuels to supply 3M gallons/year of renewable jet fuel to FedEx through 2024

July 21, 2015

Red Rock Biofuels LLC will produce approximately three million gallons of low-carbon, renewable jet fuel per year for FedEx Express, a subsidiary of FedEx Corporation. The agreement runs through 2024, with first delivery expected in 2017. FedEx joins Southwest Airlines, which signed a purchase agreement with RedRock in November 2014 for about 3 million gallons per year, in purchasing Red Rock’s total planned available volume of jet fuel. (Earlier post.)

Red Rock’s first refinery, funded in part by a $70-million Title III DPA grant from the U.S. Departments of Agriculture, Energy and Navy, is scheduled to break ground this fall in Lakeview, Ore. and will convert approximately 140,000 dry tons of woody biomass into 15 million gallons per year of renewable jet, diesel and naphtha fuels.

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Boeing, Japanese aviation industry unveil biofuel roadmap to 2020 Olympics

July 09, 2015

The Initiatives for Next Generation Aviation Fuels (INAF)—a consortium of 46 organizations including Boeing, ANA (All Nippon Airways), Japan Airlines, Nippon Cargo Airlines, Japan’s government, the University of Tokyo and other Japanese aviation industry stakeholders—has developed a five-year roadmap to develop sustainable aviation biofuel for flights during the 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games in Tokyo.

The roadmap offers a rough sketch of a path leading to the introduction of next-generation aviation fuels, and brings together the entire supply chain from the procurement of raw materials; production of next-generation aviation fuels; their mixture with conventional aviation fuels to produce alternative aviation fuels; and refueling of aircraft after the fuel has been transported to the airport. For business development, the report authors noted, “more substantive discussions are needed” which are based on the plan.

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United Airlines invests $30M in Fulcrum BioEnergy; renewable jet fuel offtake agreement, potential joint development of production

June 30, 2015

United Airlines made a $30-million equity investment in US-based Fulcrum BioEnergy, Inc., the developer of a process for converting municipal solid waste into low-cost sustainable aviation biofuel. (Earlier post.) The investment is so far the largest single investment by a US airline in alternative fuels.

In addition to the equity investment, United and Fulcrum have entered into an agreement that contemplates the joint development of up to five projects located near United’s hubs expected to have the potential to produce up to 180 million gallons of fuel per year.

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Boeing ecoDemonstrator 757 expands testing; green diesel blend, energy harvesting windows, 3D-printed flight deck component

June 20, 2015

Boeing announced the next phase in ecoDemonstrator 757 testing today, including its first flight with US-made “green diesel” (earlier post) and two new environment-related technologies. These developments advance the ecoDemonstrator program's mission to accelerate the testing and use of technologies to improve aviation's environmental performance.

In cooperation with NASA, the 757 flew on 17 June 17 from Seattle to NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va., using a blend of 95% petroleum jet fuel and 5% sustainable green diesel, a renewable drop-in bio-hydrocarbon fuel meeting ASTM International’s standard for Diesel Fuel Oils (D-975). Boeing is working with the aviation industry to approve green diesel for commercial aviation by amending the HEFA (Hydroprocessed Esters And Fatty Acids) biojet specification approved in 2011.

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Etihad Airways and partners launch roadmap for sustainable aviation biofuels in UAE

June 18, 2015

Etihad Airways, together with Boeing, Total, Takreer and the Masdar Institute of Science and Technology, launched a joint industry roadmap for the sustainable production of aviation biofuels in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). The BIOjet Abu Dhabi: Flight Path to Sustainability report outlines a set of recommended industry actions to create a commercially viable domestic aviation biofuel industry—a first for the Middle East. (Earlier post, earlier post.)

The BIOjet Abu Dhabi roadmap is the culmination of a year-long dialogue between Etihad Airways, its four BIOjet Abu Dhabi partners, and UAE and global stakeholders. It explains Abu Dhabi’s potential to produce aviation biofuel locally, in a sustainable way, taking account of all elements of the supply chain from feedstock supplies to biorefining and distribution.

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New catalytic method for converting algal oil to gasoline- or jet-fuel-range hydrocarbons

June 16, 2015

A new catalytic method for converting algal oil to gasoline- or jet-fuel-range hydrocarbons has been developed by the research group of Prof. Keiichi Tomishige and Dr. Yoshinao Nakagawa from Tohoku University’s Department of Applied Chemistry, and Dr. Hideo Watanabe from the University of Tsukuba.

The new method uses a highly dispersed ruthenium catalyst supported on cerium oxide. Squalane (C30H62)—easily obtained by the hydrogenation of squalene (C30H50) rapidly produced by the heterotrophic alga Aurantiochytrium from organics in wastewater—reacts with hydrogen over this catalyst, producing smaller branched alkanes with simple distribution and without aromatics. These molecules have high stability and low freezing points. A paper describing the system is published in the journal ChemSusChem.

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EBI ketone condensation process for drop-in jet fuel or lubricant base oil from biomass; up to 80% lifecycle GHG savings

Researchers at the Energy Biosciences Institute (EBI), a partnership led by the University of California (UC) Berkeley that includes Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and BP, have developed a new method for producing drop-in aviation fuel as well as automotive lubricant base oils from sugarcane biomass. The strategy behind the process could also be applied to biomass from other non-food plants and agricultural waste that are fermented by genetically engineered microbes, the researchers said.

The catalytic process, described in an open-access paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), selectively upgrades alkyl methyl ketones derived from sugarcane biomass into trimer condensates with better than 95% yields. These condensates are then hydro-deoxygenated into a new class of cycloalkane compounds that contain a cyclohexane ring and a quaternary carbon atom. These cycloalkane compounds can be tailored for the production of either jet fuel, or automotive lubricant base oils, resulting in products with superior cold-flow properties, density and viscosity that could achieve net life-cycle greenhouse gas savings of up to 80%, depending upon the optimization conditions.

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EPA takes first steps toward regulating commercial aviation GHGs with endangerment finding under CAA

June 11, 2015

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is proposing to find under section 231(a) of the Clean Air Act that greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from commercial aircraft engines endanger the health and welfare of Americans by contributing to climate change. At the same time, the agency issued an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPR) that provides information on the process for setting international CO2 emissions standards for aircraft at the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), and describes and seeks input on the potential use of section 231 of the Clean Air Act to adopt a corresponding standard domestically.

The finding applies to GHG emissions from engines used in US subsonic jet aircraft with a maximum takeoff mass (MTOM) greater than 5,700 kilograms and in subsonic propeller driven (e.g., turboprop) aircraft with a MTOM greater than 8,618 kilograms. Examples of covered aircraft would include smaller jet aircraft such as the Cessna Citation CJ2+ and the Embraer E170, up to and including the largest jet aircraft: the Airbus A380 and the Boeing 747. Other examples of covered aircraft would include larger turboprop aircraft, such as the ATR 72 and the Bombardier Q400. The actions do not apply to small piston-engine planes or to military aircraft.

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Gevo’s cellulosic alcohol-to-jet (ATJ) fuel to be used in NARA test flight; “wood-to-wing”

June 04, 2015

Gevo, Inc. announced a development in its fermentation technology that will allow it to produce isobutanol from cellulosic feedstocks such as wood waste; the isobutanol can then be converted into Gevo’s alcohol-to-jet fuel. In 2011, the company was awarded $5 million from the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) for the development of biojet fuel from woody biomass and forest product residues. (Earlier post.)

Gevo is a member of the Northwest Advanced Renewables Alliance (NARA) and is providing the organization with technology to enable the commercial scale processing of cellulosic sugars from wood waste into valuable products. The cellulosic jet fuel made using Gevo’s technologies will be used in a 1,000-gallon renewable fuel demonstration test flight by Alaska Airlines that NARA announced yesterday. Gevo’s isobutanol and ATJ-SPK technologies are both planned to be licensed by NARA as part of this project.

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Fulcrum Bioenergy awards $200M EPC contract to Abengoa for MSW-to-jet plant

May 07, 2015

Fulcrum BioEnergy has awarded a $200-million fixed-price engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) contract to Abengoa for the construction of Fulcrum’s first municipal solid waste (MSW) to transportation fuels facility, the Sierra BioFuels Plant. The Sierra BioFuels Plant will utilize Fulcrum’s process for converting MSW into renewable syncrude that will then be upgraded to jet fuel. (Earlier post.)

The Fulcrum process begins with the gasification of the organic material in the MSW feedstock to a synthesis gas (syngas) which consists primarily of carbon monoxide, hydrogen and carbon dioxide. This syngas is purified and processed through the Fischer-Tropsch (FT) process to produce a syncrude product which is then upgraded to jet fuel or diesel.

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WSU team engineers fungus to produce jet-range hydrocarbons from biomass

May 06, 2015

Carb3
Aspergillus carbonarius. Source: JGI MycoCosm. Click to enlarge.

Researchers at Washington State University have engineered the filamentous fungus Aspergillus carbonarius ITEM 5010 to produce jet-range hydrocarbons directly from biomass. The researchers hope the work, reported in the journal Fungal Biology, leads to economically viable production of aviation biofuels in the next five years.

The team led by Birgitte Ahring, director and Battelle distinguished professor of the Bioproducts, Sciences and Engineering Laboratory at WSU Tri-cities, found that the production of hydrocarbons was dependent on the type of media used. Therefore, they tested ten different carbon sources (oatmeal, wheat bran, glucose, carboxymethyl cellulose, avicel, xylan, corn stover, switch grass, pretreated corn stover, and pretreated switch grass) to identify the maximum number and quantity of hydrocarbons produced.

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SOLARJET demonstrates full process for thermochemical production of renewable jet fuel from H2O & CO2

April 28, 2015

The European consortium SOLARJET (Solar chemical reactor demonstration and Optimization for Long-term Availability of Renewable JET fuel) (earlier post) has experimentally demonstrated the entire process chain for the first production of renewable jet fuel via a thermochemical H2O/CO2-splitting cycle using simulated concentrated solar radiation.

The solar-to-fuel energy conversion efficiency was 1.72%, without sensible heat recovery. A total of 291 stable redox cycles were performed, yielding 700 standard liters of syngas of composition 33.7% H2, 19.2% CO, 30.5% CO2, 0.06% O2, 0.09% CH4, and 16.5% Ar, which was compressed to 150 bar and further processed via Fischer–Tropsch synthesis to a mixture of naphtha, gasoil, and kerosene. Their paper is published in the ACS journal Energy & Fuels.

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