Washington State announces forest biomass pilot project proposal to create jet biofuel from wood waste
(Photo: Aaron Toso/DNR)
Wed 12 Jan 2011 – Legislation has been proposed to establish a Washington State Department of Natural Resources (DNR) forest biomass pilot project that would create jet fuel from wood waste and mill residue. The announcement was made by Commissioner of Public Lands Peter Goldmark at the Pacific West Biomass Conference in Seattle. The bill would also convene a stakeholder group to develop a strategy for moving a sustainable biofuel industry forward, says DNR. The initiative comes after a six-month project to assess the potential of a sustainable aviation fuels industry in the Pacific Northwest was started in July 2010 by local aviation interests and other stakeholders. Three airports – Seattle-Tacoma, Spokane International and Portland International – along with Alaska Airlines and Seattle-based Boeing funded a four-state regional assessment to look at biomass options and possible sources for creating renewable jet fuel.
“Aviation biofuel is a product that can provide a renewable, locally grown energy source combining Washington’s forestry heritage and our technology future,” said Goldmark. “The Forest Biomass Initiative has a unique opportunity to help new, efficient technologies get to the marketplace in a pragmatic and sustainable way. Finding a higher use for residual forest biomass will help maintain our working lands that provide so many other benefits to the public, like habitat and clean water.”
Washington State Governor Chris Gregoire commented: “Thanks to the hard work, groundbreaking research and leadership of so many, including Commissioner Goldmark, forest biomass may now fuel our airplanes. The opportunity to combine our cutting-edge aviation industry with the growing clean-energy industry will help create local jobs and show the world that we will continue to be a leader in the global economy.”
The ‘Sustainable Aviation Fuels Northwest’ project aimed to look at all phases of developing an aviation biofuels industry, including biomass production and harvest, refining, transport infrastructure and actual use by airlines. It also addressed issues such as scale, commercial viability and environmental considerations.
The camelina plant, grown in the northwest state of Montana, has already been successfully trialled as a source for both commercial and military jet biofuel demonstration flights. The assessment of the Northwest project also included an analysis of other potential biomass sources that are indigenous to the region, including algae, wood by-products and others.
“The aviation community is driven to find new and sustainable sources of fuel that can help meet growing demand while reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and biomass offers significant opportunity,” said Jim Rekoske, Vice President and General Manager of Renewable Energy and Chemicals for UOP, a Honeywell company. “The technology to convert this abundant resource into high-quality, drop-in biofuels is viable. It is this type of commitment that will help us make it a commercial reality.”
Playing a leading role in the work carried out by the Northwest project was Washington State University (WSU), identified as one of the leading institutions in the world for its research on biofuels.
Commenting on the DNR initiative, WSU’s Vice President of Advancement Dr John Gardner said: “We see this as a move in the right direction, aligning Washington’s public and private sector that are emerging world leaders in this new sector. Washington State University stands ready to provide the critical research and development, as well as bring our broad network together already working on sustainable, next generation biofuels.”