By Graham Warwick
April 1, 2011
Aviation industry expects to benefit from plans for at least four commercial-scale biofuel refineries announced by President Barack Obama today as part of an energy-security strategy to reduce U.S. oil imports by a third by 2025.
With the rapid technical progress in developing bio-derived replacements for petroleum-based jet fuel, the industry has turned its focus to the challenge of scaling production up to commercial volumes and bringing costs down to competitive levels.
The Obama administration’s announced goal of “breaking ground on at least four commercial-scale cellulosic or advanced bio-refineries over the next two years,” is a major boost, although aviation will compete with other transportation sectors for access.
The Air Transport Association welcomed Obama’s directive to the U.S. Navy to work with the departments of Energy and Agriculture and the private sector to develop advanced biofuels for military and commercial aircraft.
There have been concerns that cuts in the defense budget would curtail spending on biofuel development. Certification work on alternative fuels has been led largely by the U.S. Air Force, but now the Navy is taking the lead on biofuels.
The administration’s goal is to stimulate commercial production of biofuels derived from cellulosic feedstocks, such as switchgrass and woodchips, as well as other biomass sources that can be produced sustainably and do not compete with food crops for land or water.
While the aviation industry expects bio-jet produced from camelina, jatropha and other seed oils to be approved for use in aircraft by August, work is continuing on developing biofuels from cellulosic sources by upgrading alcohols, such as butanol and ethanol.
These are expected to be followed by jet fuels derived from algae, which could dramatically reduce the amount of land and water needed to produce the volume of jet fuel required, but these are still several years away.
Source: AVIATION WEEK