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Honeywell’s UOP receives $1.1M FAA contract to demonstrate technology for conversion of isobutanol from Gevo to aviation biofuels

UOP LLC, a Honeywell company, was awarded a $1.1 million contract from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) via the US Department of Transportation’s Volpe Center to develop and demonstrate technology that will produce renewable jet fuel from isobutanol supplied by Gevo, Inc. (Earlier post.) The award was one of eight such from the FAA, totaling $7.7M.

Isobutanol can be produced from a variety of starch and sugar feedstocks, including corn. In the future, inedible sources, such as corn stover, bagasse and wood residues, could also be used as feedstocks. In September, Gevo received a $5-million grant from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) for the development of biojet fuel from woody biomass and forest product residues. (Earlier post.)

The new FAA contract with UOP supports US government efforts to identify and accelerate the commercial availability of next-generation, non-fossil jet fuel.

UOP notes that isobutanol-derived biofuels will offer new renewable sources for jet fuel production beyond the natural oils and biomass materials that have been introduced for commercial and military flight in the last several years—including those produced by UOP.

The development of new second-generation biofeedstock conversion technology is critical to support growing energy needs and speed commercial availability. Since our entry into the biofuels arena, Honeywell’s UOP has become a recognized leader in the development of new innovative, sustainable and safe approaches for green fuels production. We are committed to partnerships with the FAA and other government entities and private companies to realize the potential of biofuels.

—Jim Rekoske, vice president and general manager for Renewable Energy & Chemicals at Honeywell’s UOP

UOP will deliver 100 gallons of renewable jet fuel derived from isobutanol to the government in 2012. This fuel will be evaluated to ensure it is compatible with aircraft engines and that it meets specification for flight.

UOP. Honeywell’s UOP is a recognized leader in refining process technologies to convert natural oils, animal fats and biomass to sustainable green fuels. It currently offers process technology to produce Honeywell Green Jet Fuel from natural oils and wastes that meets all specifications for flight and, when used up to a 50% blend with petroleum-derived jet fuel, is a drop-in replacement that requires no changes to the aircraft or engine.

To date, Honeywell Green Jet Fuel has been used in more than 20 test and commercial flights on military and commercial platforms. In each flight, the biofuel performed as well, if not better, than traditional petroleum-based fuels. The fuel received ASTM approval for commercial flight in July 2011.

Honeywell’s UOP has also commercialized the UOP/Eni Ecofining process to produce Honeywell Green Diesel fuel from natural oils and wastes. In 2008, Honeywell’s UOP formed the joint venture Envergent Technologies LLC with Ensyn Corp. to offer technology that converts solid waste biomass, such as forest and agricultural residues, to renewable heat, power and transportation fuels.

Gevo patent for renewable jet from cellulosic isobutanol. In May, Gevo filed a patent application, published in November, for methods to produce renewable jet fuel blendstock via an isobutanol pathway (Application Nº 20110288352).

The process comprises:

  1. treating biomass to form a feedstock;
  2. fermenting the feedstock with one or more species of microorganism, thereby forming isobutanol;
  3. catalytically dehydrating at least a portion of the isobutanol, thereby forming a dehydration product comprising isobutene;
  4. oligomerizing at least a portion of the dehydration product to form higher molecular weight olefins (e.g., C8–C16 olefins); and
  5. hydrogenating at least a portion of the higher molecular weight olefins to form a renewable jet fuel blendstock comprising C12 and C16 alkanes which meet or exceed the requirements of ASTM D7566-10a for hydroprocessed synthesized paraffinic kerosene (SPK).

In July 2010, Gevo reported the successful production of isobutanol from fermentable sugars derived from cellulosic biomass. The company also successfully converted the cellulosic isobutanol into isobutylene and paraffinic kerosene (jet fuel). (Earlier post.)


Alex Kovnat

Seems to me that isobutanol would be just as valuable as an automotive fuel by itself, or as a gasoline blending component. I'd like to see how various mixtures of isobutanol, ethanol and gasoline would work out.


sound complicated path, butanol is not that easy to make and so far there is economical process. The Amarys process is much more promising making biodiesel directly from sugar with a simple algee

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