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Successful Engineering Validation Flight of US Commercial Jet Using 40:60 Synthetic Jet Fuel Blend

United Airlines has conducted a successful engineering validation flight using Rentech’s certified synthetic jet fuel (RenJet).

The validation flight was conducted using a 40:60 mix of Rentech’s synthetic jet fuel with conventional Jet A fuel in one of two engines on an Airbus 319 aircraft. The aircraft departed Denver International Airport and climbed to an altitude of 39,000 feet where the onboard team collected data on the performance of the fuel during several maneuvers, including taxi, takeoff, climb, cruise, auxiliary power unit start, descent and approach.

The synthetic jet fuel, derived from natural gas and converted to liquid fuel through the Rentech Fischer Tropsch process, is approved by the ASTM International for use on passenger flights.

Captain Joseph Burns, United Airlines managing director, technology and flight test, led a team of 19 engineers and observers on board the flight. Definitive results and analysis of the performance of the synthetic jet fuel and the aircraft are expected within the next 10 days.

In December 2009, United, along with twelve other domestic and international passenger and cargo carriers, signed a non-binding Memorandum of Understanding that is intended to serve as a framework for a future definitive supply agreement from two different producers of synthetic jet fuel: AltAir Fuels LLC and RenTech Inc. (Earlier post.)

The synthetic jet fuel used in today’s engineering validation flight was produced at Rentech’s Product Demonstration Unit, in Commerce City, Colorado. This facility is designed to produce more than 400 gallons per day of ultra-clean burning synthetic jet fuel, aviation fuel, ultra-low sulfur diesel, and specialty waxes and chemicals and is scalable for greater output.

Rentech and ClearFuels Technology Inc. (ClearFuels) have been selected to receive up to $23-million grant from the US Department of Energy (DOE) to construct a 20 ton-per-day biomass gasifier at RETC. (Earlier post.) The gasifier will be integrated with Rentech’s PDU for the production of renewable synthetic fuels from biomass. This joint demonstration of an integrated bio-refinery will lead to the final design basis for commercial facilities that are expected to use the combined technologies.

This flight confirms our assumptions about how this fuel performs on a commercial aircraft in a variety of situations and represents the next step in our effort to stimulate competition in the aviation fuel supply chain, promote energy security through economically viable alternatives that also demonstrate environmental benefits and contribute to the creation of green jobs.

—Joseph Kolshak, United Airlines senior vice president of operations

In August 2009, United was among eight airlines who signed a multi-year agreement with Rentech for up to 1.5 million gallons per year of renewable synthetic diesel (RenDiesel) for ground service equipment operations at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) beginning in late 2012, when Rentech’s Rialto Renewable Energy Center is scheduled to go into service.



Good, if commercial flight, travel in general, is to continue some way around OPEC fuel costs must be found.

Henry Gibson

It is now time to expose the fact that commercial jet airliners do not use pure jet engines. Actually they never did. What they do use is high bypass jet engines where most of the thrust is produced by air going though a fan. This system is a close relative to the turbo prop aiplane.

Turbines can theoretically use a wide variety of fuels but piston engines have proven to be more able to burn almost anthing that can be pumped. The large ship piston engines are now demonstrating this.

Because of the recent issues with volcanic dust it is now time to look again at ordinary piston engines where the air intake to the combustion chamber can be filtered and propellors can be used to generate thrust.

Redesigning the Junkers Jumo engine or the new OPOC engine for aircraft that do not need to travel at the highest speeds can save a lot of fuel for air travel. Modern materials and material processing facilities can reduce the weight of such engines and even the extra weight can be compensated for by higher efficiency of the engine and its operation. Jet fuel can be used with great efficiency and range in such engines, and this has been demonstrated with smaller planes.

Converting methane to liquid fuels is an important step in the reduction of the use of imported fuels in the US. The US military is trying to eliminate the use of all engine fuels but jet fuel, and this is also a good idea for the whole world.

All cars should run diesel engines with exhaust gas treatments as appropriate. Modern technology allows, even, the easy conversion of diesel into fuel for existing spark plug engines to be built into an automobile. Even melted candle wax can be converted.


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