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NetJets Launches Climate Initiative, Funding for Low Net GHG Synthetic Jet Fuel Project

Petroleum-based jet fuel is a mixture comprising approximately 20% n-paraffins, 40% iso-paraffins, 20% naphthenes (cycloparaffins), and 20% aromatics. Click to enlarge. Source: Air Force Research Laboratory

NetJets, a private aviation company serving the US and Europe, has launched a multi-faceted initiative to reduce the environmental impact of aviation, including funding research to develop a synthetic jet fuel with ultra-low net emissions of greenhouse gases (GHG) through The Next Generation Jet Fuel Project at Princeton University with the University of California, Davis.

The initiative, which was introduced by NetJets Inc. Chairman & CEO Richard Santulli, and which will be expanded in the coming months, also focuses on improving operational efficiency, reducing carbon emissions from internal operations by 10% over the next two years, and fully offsetting remaining carbon emissions from internal operations. The offset portfolio will also be available to NetJets Owners so they can offset their flights.

NetJets is pleased to be working with the engineers and scientists at Princeton to develop new jet fuels with near-zero net greenhouse gas emissions. Princeton has a longstanding history of leadership in aerospace science. We feel they will make great strides with this research.

—Richard Santulli

The NetJets-funded research project provides the opportunity to make substantial progress toward the launching of green technologies not only for corporate jets, but also for commercial aviation and transportation in general, according to Robert Williams, a senior research scientist at the Princeton Environmental Institute and member of the NetJets-sponsored research team. Professor of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Fred Dryer will lead the Princeton team, which also includes Associate Professor of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Yiguang Ju, and Eric Larson, a research engineer at the Princeton Environmental Institute. In addition, the work will involve collaboration with researchers at the Institute of Transportation Studies at the University of California-Davis.

The Princeton researchers will center their efforts on the synthesis of jet fuels from the gasification of a combination of coal and biomass. A key component of their solution is isolating and storing the carbon dioxide produced during synfuels production.

An especially attractive feature of processing coal and biomass together to make synfuels is that it requires only half the amount of biomaterial as pure biofuel production, while still making fuels with near-zero greenhouse gas emissions, according to Williams.

Air Force Project for Combustion Models. Dryer is also leading a major project funded by the US Air Force to develop computational and kinetic models that accurately simulate the combustion of jet fuel.

The Air Force program is one of the Defense Department’s Multi-disciplinary University Research Initiative (MURI) grants. One of only ten such projects supported by the Air Force this year, the collaboration involves researchers from four institutions:Princeton, Case Western Reserve University, Pennsylvania State University and the University of Illinois-Chicago. The award, with an overall value of up to $7.5 million, will provide support for three years with the option of a two-year extension. Research began in July and the kick-off meeting for the project will be held 17 September in Princeton.

Dryer and his MURI collaborators, including Ju, will develop methods to predict and evaluate how jet fuels will behave in actual engines and characterize the emissions they will produce. While current guidelines specify some overall properties of jet fuels, they do not spell out the actual chemical composition. Depending on the source and processing method, jet fuel typically consists of hundreds to thousands of molecular structures that behave in a variety of ways.

The models developed by the team will represent and characterize the behavior of this broad range of jet fuel species using only a few types of molecular structures as surrogates for the larger whole. Dryer previously developed similar surrogate fuel models to represent gasoline, which are now being used for engine design by the automotive industry.

The rules and methods developed by the research team also will support the future use of alternative jet fuel sources, including liquids derived from coal or biomass, by providing an increased understanding of their combustion properties in comparison to petroleum-derived materials. In order to make alternative jet fuel sources feasible, they need to be compatible with petroleum and produce similar combustion performance. This will only be possible if we fully understand how alternative fuels burn and design engines based on this fundamental knowledge.

—Fred Dryer

According to the US Department of Transportation, aviation is responsible for around 10% of the greenhouse gas emissions from transportation in the nation, or roughly 2.7% of the country’s total greenhouse gas emissions.

In June, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) selected Reaction Design to develop fuel models for simulating the operation of jet engines with alternative fuels. The two-year project will be led by Reaction Design with experimental support from researchers at the University of Southern California. (Earlier post.)




from the NetJets report:
* Aviation accounts for 3% of EU CO2 emissions
* Business [general] aviation causes a very small percentage of EU aviation emissions - 0.45%

Clearly this is more about image and any possible concern by the leadership of NetJets than any actual emissions impact, since the sector is responsible for 1/10000 of the problem.

Hopefully this will have spillover effects for aviation in general, though I'm curious as to why coal is a necessary component in the synfuel they're considering.


So how could this be done, what sources to use and do they have to match J-A/B standards or just simulate them (new standards)?

Private jet have to be about the worst idea possible from a CO2/km basis.
The only thing I can think would be a private tank or rocket.
They had better start planting A LOT of trees if they want to salve their consciences.

Does anyone have figures for jets with say 2 people on them.


They had better start planting A LOT of trees if they want to salve their consciences.

What about those of us who participate in the other 99.99% of the problem?


Appart the absurdity of using jets as an alternative for tele-conferencing, the technology to produce carbon-neutrol fuels sounds not so bad.
using cheap coal to produce carbon-free hydrogen, and then using the hydrogen to produce a lot of biofuel out of biomass may well produce a lot of cheap carbon-neutral biofuel. (as I mentioned in another discussion :
Coal + H2O --> H2 + CO2 (CO2 is sequestered)
biomass + H2 --> a lot of biofuel.

So every carbon molecule in the exhaust-CO2 is of neutral.


We are always going to need some kind of high speed high capacity air travel, and jets can't be powered with batteries or hydrogen.

This is high speed low capacity air travel.

I wonder will they become socially unacceptable - like wearing furs ?

Airliners are more or less OK - if you have to go to the US from Europe what else are you going to do ?


Does anyone have figures for jets with say 2 people on them.

The crusing speed SFC for the engines on the HondaJet is around 0.7. Maximum passenger capacity of six people, I believe that translates into around 1,700 BTU/passenger-mile, ground-equivalent (ie, compared to driving distance).

If that SFC figure needs to be doubled (since there's two engines, and I'm not sure if the figure is for one engine or the plane as a whole), that number obviously bumps to 3,400.

By comparison, an average light vehicle in the US consumes 6,400 BTU/mile and a Prius around 2,600.

Bob Bastard

I can't afford a private jet, so why should anyone else be allowed to?

gavin walsh

""jets can't be powered with batteries or hydrogen."

actually, they can be powered by hydrogen. requires some modifications to tankage etc, but essentially doable. search "cryoplane" in google, first result.


actually, they can be powered by hydrogen. requires some modifications to tankage etc, but essentially doable. search "cryoplane" in google, first result.

Oh right! Next thing you'll tell us that we can use hydrogen to power space ships. :)

gavin walsh

hard to tell if you're being sarcastic...??


hard to tell if you're being sarcastic...??

Yes, it was facetious.



Not just modification of tankage, but the entire design of the aircraft since the tanks must be spherical. This article outlines the whole issue, pros and cons. Synthetic BTL kerosene might still be the better solution, since it doesn't require whole new aircraft or infrastructure to support liquid hydrogen.


gavin walsh,

True, it could be done (and has) but it is not practical, nor could it be implemented as quickly or easily as synthetic oil.


"jets can't be powered with batteries or hydrogen"


"it could be done (and has) but it is not practical"

Benji is incapable of simply saying, "You're right, I was wrong."


I was wrong to imply impossiblity, how about that? Also I noted that his statement was true.


I was wrong to imply impossiblity

"Imply"? LOL. You implied nothing. You flat-out said they can't.

Also I noted that his statement was true.

Thank goodness. Everyone was waiting for your consent to reality.

Stan Peterson

If CO2 emissions are indeed a long term issue, which is not likely, eventually air transport will go away from amorphous mixtures of hydrocarbons to engineered fuels. But the jet fuel will then be composed of but a single or a few particular molecules. The combustion process will be optimized to consume these specific molecular types, most efficiently.

But this "research" is no such thing at all. It is an accounting trick, that makes its CO2 emissions "green" or "superior". CO2 molecules produced in combustion are in fact indistinguishable from each other.

The accountants will say these Carbon molecules are from the biomass carbon sink, and that is somehow a preferential carbon sink to draw from. The carbon sink from which this fuel is made is somehow supposed to be superior than carbon from some other carbon sink.

The only carbon sink that ought to count at all as superior in any way, is the atmospheric carbon sink.

Removing CO2 from the atmosphere as a source for manufactured jet fuel, would indeed be neutral, all other carbon sink sources are equally non-preferential.

Any other "better" carbon sink source is a theological illusion. Indeed seeking carbon from the biomass carbon sink, will lead to deforestation; and maybe killing the Amazon Rain forest, for example. Hardly something to be sought.

This is a "feel good" and "project-a-good-image" PR, rather than any real environmental improvement. The private jet industry is worried that it will be viewed as a evil and its growth restricted, or its products grounded.


jack: I thought you were going to ignore Ben.

Ben: You should ignore jack.


Maybe I'm cynical but I see the beginnings of a scam when a process mixes coal and biomass. The operators start out by saying 'sure we'll carbon capture' but later drop the idea saying 'it's almost climate neutral since we mainly use biomass'. Does anybody check?


Stan Peterson, you are quite right. I agree with you totally. I am now scanning the sky for the impending lightning bolt... Been nice knowin' y'all.


Ben: You should ignore jack.

Fat chance.


If CO2 emissions are indeed a long term issue, which is not likely

Reminds me of a "South Park" episode.


More spoofing of my ID.

Posted by: "jack" | Sep 15, 2007 1:53:08 PM
Posted by: Ben | Sep 15, 2007 2:02:30 PM

My understanding is that the site owner will ban people who do such a thing. Just FYI to you.

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