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LanzaTech receives $3M contract from FAA for alcohol-to-jet project; one of 8 awards worth total of $7.7M

Different pathways to jet fuel. Alcohol-to-jet (bottom) is currently being explored by an ASTM Working Group. Source: Byogy. Click to enlarge.

LanzaTech has received a US$3-million contract from the United States Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), through the Department of Transportation’s John A. Volpe Center, to accelerate commercial availability of alcohol-to-jet (ATJ) renewable drop-in aviation fuel. (Earlier post.)

The award was the largest of eight contracts worth a total of $7.7 million announced by the FAA to help advance alternative, environmentally-friendly, sustainable sources for commercial jet fuel.

LanzaTech’s proprietary gas fermentation technology enables low cost production of sustainable alcohols and chemicals from waste gas resources that are completely outside the food value chain. These alcohols are then converted, using technology from LanzaTech’s partner Swedish Biofuels, to jet fuel that is fully equivalent to petroleum jet fuel, or that can be blended with petroleum. (Earlier post.)

In October, Virgin Atlantic, in partnership with LanzaTech and Swedish Biofuels, announced the development of a low-carbon, synthetic jet fuel kerosene produced from industrial waste gases with half the carbon footprint of the standard fossil fuel alternative.

The pathway to jet fuel with alcohol as an intermediate is proving to be a versatile way of producing advanced hydrocarbon fuels.
— Angelica Hull, Managing Director of Swedish Biofuels

Virgin Atlantic said it would be the first airline to use this fuel and plans to work with LanzaTech, Boeing and Swedish Biofuels towards achieving the technical approval required for using new fuel types in commercial aircraft. A demo flight with the new fuel is planned in 12-18 months, with commercialization targeted for 2014.

Dr. Jennifer Holmgren, LanzaTech’s chief executive, says the FAA program award will accelerate the commercialization of ATJ technologies by providing critical fuel data and assessing US production opportunities.

This project will use heavy industry gases and synthesis gas derived from lignin, a byproduct of cellulosic ethanol. The use of lignin opens up a new biomass waste stream for making economic renewable jet fuel.

LanzaTech will be joined by both Imperium and Battelle in Richland, Washington, which will assess potential US commercial production sites and resources. Michigan Technological University will assess the life cycle benefits of the integration process.

A key goal of the project is to produce 100+ gallons of alternative jet fuel for testing by the US Air Force Research Laboratory. Test data will be used as part the certification process for alcohol to jet (ATJ) fuels.

Professor Angelica Hull, Managing Director of Swedish Biofuels, says the project aims to increase the raw material base for the production of alternative fuels in aviation.

Alcohol-to-Jet. Alcohol is deemed attractive as a feedstock for the production of renewable jet fuel partly because all the steps required are currently in use at commercial scale in the petrochemical industry. The ATJ process broadly consists of four main steps: dehydration of the alcohol; oligomerization; distillation; and hydrogenation. Key to the cost-effectiveness of ATJ is reducing the production cost of the alcohol, as well as of the ATJ process itself.

Just as there are many types of crude oil that can be refined to produce petroleum jet fuel, and just as there are many types of feedstocks that can be used in Fischer-Tropsch and natural oil hydrogenation processes to produce renewable jet, so are there different alcohols produced by a variety of pathways and feedstocks that can be converted into renewable jet, noted Kevin Weiss, CEO of Byogy Renewables, Inc., at an ICAO sustainable alternative fuels workshop in October.

Future pathways for consideration. Source: FAA. Click to enlarge.

FAA alternative jet fuel awards. The eight companies selected for the contracts will help the FAA develop and approve alternative, sustainably-sourced “drop-in” jet fuels that can be used without changing aircraft engine systems or airport fueling infrastructure. As part of that work, the companies will develop these biofuels from sources such as alcohols, sugars, biomass, and pyrolysis oils.

In addition, the contracts call for research into alternative jet fuel quality control, examination of how jet biofuels affect engine durability, and provide guidance to jet biofuel users about factors that affect sustainability.

The contracts build on alternative fuel development investments by the Departments of Defense, Energy, Agriculture, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency, as well as by FAA.

The new contracts stem from work the FAA is doing through the agency’s Commercial Aviation Alternative Fuel Initiative (CAAFI) and the agency’s Continuous Lower Emissions, Energy and Noise (CLEEN) program. These public, academic and private-sector partnerships include approximately 300 stakeholders from the airline, aerospace, energy, research, state and federal governments.

In addition to the LanzaTech contract, the other awards were:

  • $1.1 million for Honeywell UOP
  • $1.5 million for Virent Energy Systems
  • $1.5 million for Velocys, Inc.
  • $280,000 for Honeywell Aerospace
  • $250,000 for Metron Aviation, Inc.
  • $50,000 for Futurepast, Inc.
  • $25,000 for Life Cycle Associates



Henry Gibson

Alcohol is a food.

Cellulose is also a food.

There can not be enough trees grown in the world to make fuel for jets and lorries.

Great Britain destroyed its forests 200 years ago for fuel and food.

Rome destroyed the North African and other Mediteranian forests for fuel and food 2000 years ago, and Spain did it slightly more recently. ..HG..

Henry Gibson

This is after the US closed down a waste wood operation in the US. Forget it; there is not enough wood. ..HG..

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