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Thursday, February 18, 2016

THE FUTURE OF CARBON-FREE NEXT GENERATION AVIATION: Part Two--Renewable Jet Fuel Development

Biomass consultant Kapi Lokare published The Usual Suspects in Renewable Jet Fuel.  To summarize:
  • Jet fuel is produced from petroleum and the composition is:
    • 20% paraffins
    • 40% isoparaffins
    • 20% naphthenes
    • 20% aromatics
  • Paraffins and isoparaffins have high hydrogen-to-carbon ratios to enhance the heat density per unit mass of fuel.
  • Naphthenes reduce the freeze point, which is critical at high altitudes.
  • Aromatics contribute to material compatibility and prevent leaks in aircraft seals.
  • There are no fuel specifications for bio jet fuels, but the military and some airlines have generally tended to blend the untested bio versions with conventional jet fuel.
  • The matter of drop in renewable jet fuel remains a matter of international approvals:
  • There are five conversion pathways for a drop in alternative kerosene:
    • Fischer-Tropsch:  biomass to syngas to jet fuel (Franz Fischer to the left and Hans Tropsch to the right)
    • Hydro-processed esters and fatty acids
    • Direct sugar to hydrocarbon conversion:  biomass deoxygenation with hydrogen, followed by cracking to jet fuel
    • Direct liquefaction:  sugar to hydrocarbon to jet fuel
    • Alcohol-to-jet:  mostly butanol to jet fuel
  • There are five additional options:
    • Fatty acid esters
    • Furan derivatives
    • Succinct acid derivatives
    • Cryogenic fuels
    • Carbon dioxide remediation
  • There have been more than 50 routes of commercial flights using bio-based fuels as a portion of the jetfuel.  There should be more into the future.
  • The largest hurdle is getting purchase contract. (My input:  but that is because all these biofuels are much too expensive today.)

Here a few more headlines:
  • Renewable jet fuel ready for takeoff:  From Biomass Magazine, a $4.7 million contract to the University North Dakota from DARPA has resulted in the production of a biojetfuel which meets all standards and does not need to be blended.  (No cost figures were mentioned.)
  • U.S. Department of Energy:  the Bioenergy Technologies Office advances renewable jet fuel development for the aviation market, working with the FAA to produce clean jet fuel from natural gas.
  • NASA has agreed to work with German and Canadian partners to test the impact of alternative fuels at altitude, and with IATA, the industry link to all airlines, monitoring jet emissions.
  • GreenAir, an independent site reporting on aviation and the environment:
    • Reported on the Farm to Fly 2.0 initiative to development a commercially viable aviation biofuel industry in the U.S.  The connection is to the billion gallons by 2018 plan.
    • Garuda Indonesia will be using locally-sourced aviation biofuels this year.
    • Boeing, SAA and SkyNRG will collaborate on a project to convert a new tobacco crop in South Africa into sustainable jet fuel.
    • Honeywell UOP was selected by Petrixo Oil & Gas of Dubai to produce renewable jet fuel and diesel at a new refinery in the UAE to process half a million tons of renewable feedstock.
    • The UK is showing interest in kick-starting the production of sustainable aviation fuels, while British Airways and Solena are building a waste-to-jet fuel GreenSky facility in the Thames Enterprise Park.
    • Japan has an initiative to launch a next-generation sustainable aviation biofuel sector by 2020.
    • Brazil's GOL to start international flights with a newly-certified Amyris/Total sugar cane jet fuel.
    • The first BioPort will be build in Sweden.
    • Australia is pondering using mallee trees as the feedstock to power aircraft from Perth by 2021.
    • KLM and SkyNRG are contemplating sustainable jet fuel flights to the Caribbean.
    • Boeing and Embraer will open an aviation biofuel research center in the Sao Jose dos Campos Technology Park in Brazil.
    • Avian and Lufthansa will team with Gevo to gain alcohol-to-jet fuel approval.
    • The SOLAR-JET project of the European Union demonstrated a revolutionary breakthrough using solar power to produce renewable jet fuel.
    • Applied Research Associated, Blue Sun Energy and Chevron Lummus Global have built a facility in Missouri to produce 4,200 gallons/day of renewable jet and diesel fuels from industrial and waste oils.
    • Norwegian airport operator Avinor is investing $16.5 million to support a national aviation biofuel industry.
    • This list goes on and on, with many of these announcements coming from a time when oil was $100/barrel, so it would be interesting to see how many are still operating.
First, I am surprised that there has been so much activity in the field to develop sustainable jet fuels, even though most of the successful ones still have close fossil fuel links (that is, using waste oil or natural gas as the feedstock).  However, I can only wish them lots of luck with oil currently at $30/barrel and the Chicago Mercantile Exchange quoting oil futures at $52/barrel in December of 2024.

Finally, I should at least mention a U.S. Air Force $6.8 trash to hydrogen and clean jet fuel project for Pearl Harbor and Hickam Air Force Base by Biomass Energy Systems, Inc.  I won't provide details here, but you can click on the TurnW2EGasification System should you wish to learn a few things.  Way premature for commercialization, but some important bridging steps towardsthe ultimate hydrogen jet plane.

Part 3 will delve into the state of developing next generation aircraft capable of utilizing hydrogen as the fuel.  The following from the Stanford Energy Club:


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Tropical Cyclone Uriah in the Indian Ocean is at a dangerous 105 MPH, but still heading south to nowhere.  However, Tropical Cyclone Winston at 115 MPH seems to heading straight for Fiji:


However, computer models show Winston turning south before impacting Fiji.

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