|The UOP/Eni Ecofining process supports the possible co-production of propane, naphtha, and high quality jet fuel. Click to enlarge.|
UOP LLC, a Honeywell company, will accelerate research and development on renewable energy technology to convert vegetable and algal oils to fuels for military jets.
The goal of the project, which is backed by $6.7 million in funding from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), is to develop and to commercialize a process to produce Jet Propellant 8 (JP-8)—used by US and NATO militaries—from biofeedstocks. This is UOP’s first project with DARPA.
UOP will work with Honeywell Aerospace, Cargill, Arizona State University, Sandia National Laboratories and Southwest Research Institute on the project, which is expected to be completed by the end of 2008. Fuel produced by the new process will have to meet stringent military specifications and is expected to achieve 90% energy efficiency for maximum conversion of feed to fuel, reduced waste and reduced production costs. UOP expects the technology will be viable for future use in the production of jet fuel for commercial jets.
The focus of our renewable energy efforts has been to develop technologies that align with today’s standard refinery practices, but allow a broader range of feedstock options. We are confident that we have assembled a strong team of experts that will be successful in proving the viability of biofeedstock technologies for JP-8 and other jet fuels, while offering the US military another option for sustainable liquid fuels critical to their programs.—Jennifer Holmgren, director of UOP’s Renewable Energy and Chemicals business unit
UOP formed its Renewable Energy & Chemicals business unit in late 2006 to commercialize solutions for production of renewable biofuel energy. At that time, UOP announced it has developed, along with European energy company Eni, a processs that uses hydro-processing technology and refinery hardware to convert vegetable oils and waste into a high-cetane renewable diesel fuel with low emissions and high efficiency. The UOP/Eni Ecofining output is a hydrocarbon product, not an oxygenated compound.
Earlier this month, UOP announced ENI will build the first Ecofining facility in Italy. The facility is projected to start up in early 2009. (Earlier post.)
DARPA, the central research and development organization for the Department of Defense (DoD), opened up its Biofuels BAA (Broad Agency Announcement—i.e., funding opportunities) in July 2006. The agency is seeking proposals for research and development efforts to develop a process that efficiently produces a surrogate for petroleum-based JP-8 from oil-rich crops produced by either agriculture or aquaculture (including but not limited to plants, algae, fungi, and bacteria) and which ultimately can be an affordable alternative to petroleum-derived JP-8.
Current processes for biodiesel (fatty acid methyl ester) produce a fuel that is 25% lower in energy density than JP-8 and exhibits unacceptable cold-flow features at the lower extreme of the required JP-8 operating regime (-50°F) and so is unsuitable for military operations. Subsequent secondary processing of biodiesel is currently inefficient and results in a biofuel JP-8 being prohibitively expensive, according to DARPA.
The primary technical objective of the DARPA BioFuels program is to achieve a 60% (or greater) conversion efficiency, by energy content, of crop oil to JP-8 surrogate and to demonstrate a path to 90% conversion.
Program participants are expected to deliver a minimum of 100 liters of JP-8 surrogate biofuel for initial government laboratory qualification.
In December 2006, DARPA awarded the Energy & Environmental Research Center (EERC) at the University of North Dakota approximately $5 million for the development and demonstration of a new domestic bio jet fuel as part of the program.