The Energy & Environmental Research Center (EERC) at the University of North Dakota has been awarded a subcontract by Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC) to help produce renewable jet fuel from algae.
The effort is being funded by the US Department of Defense’s (DoD) Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and is a continuation of the first successful production of 100% renewable fuel for the US military by the EERC. Under a previous DARPA contract, the EERC advanced the development of a feedstock-flexible thermocatalytic cracking and separation process in its production of renewable JP-8 from vegetable oils. (Earlier post.)
The EERC-developed technology converts renewable oil feedstocks to a liquid hydrocarbon stream that is further refined to produce combinations of renewable jet fuel, diesel, and naphtha (a constituent used to create chemicals and gasoline) that are essentially identical to their petroleum-derived counterparts. The technology comprises a series of primary unit operations including:
- Hydrodeoxygenation (HDO) to convert renewable oils to straight-chain hydrocarbons.
- Degassing and water removal to ensure against water contamination of next-stage isomerization/cracking processing.
- Isomerization and cracking to achieve a jet fuel specification-compliant mix of branched hydrocarbons.
- Distillation to yield jet fuel, naphtha (a light hydrocarbon mix used as feedstock for chemicals and gasoline), and diesel fuel.
EERC has partnered with major international catalyst producer Albemarle for catalyst supply.
The EERC will utilize the same proprietary technology to produce jet fuel from algae oils. Working with SAIC to produce the fuels from algae enhances the EERC’s capabilities for commercial production of economically viable renewable fuels that are fully interchangeable with existing fuels and distribution networks, do not negatively impact the world's food supply, and are environmentally benign.
SAIC is working closely with its teammates to identify ways to minimize the cost of algae production and achieve DARPA’s jet fuel (JP-8) cost target of $3.00/gallon. Together, SAIC and the EERC will produce fuel samples for government test and evaluation. Sample production will be performed in the EERC’s liquid fuel demonstration facilities.
Information generated during this effort will support development of a design for a pilot test facility with the flexibility to produce either diesel or jet fuel in response to market demand. This effort will advance the research and allow for a detailed assessment of the economic viability of the EERC’s renewable oil-refining technology.
In January, the EERC announced a collaboration with Tesoro, an independent refiner and marketer of petroleum products, on a $1-million project to evaluate renewable oil refining technologies for commercial production of renewable diesel fuel, jet fuel, and naphtha from North Dakota oilseed crops, such as crambe. (Earlier post.)
EERC Response to Independent Technical Review Comments on Renewable Oil Refinery Development for Commercialization