US demonstration plant starts daily production of drop-in renewable jet and biodiesel fuels
Fri 28 Mar 2014 – A newly-commissioned demonstration-scale facility in St Joseph, Missouri has started 24/7 operations that will see production of 4,200 gallons per day of renewable jet and diesel fuels from industrial and waste oils. The venture is a partnership of Applied Research Associates (ARA), Blue Sun Energy and Chevron Lummus Global (CLG), and uses a propriety process called Biofuels Isoconversion (BIC) to produce 100 per cent drop-in diesel and jet fuels. The partners claim the low-cost process can convert any non-edible fats and oils directly into high-density, aromatic cycloparaffin and isoparaffin hydrocarbons that are ideal for drop-in military and civilian jet fuels. ARA and CLG were amongst participants in a Canadian project in 2012 that included the first flight of a civilian aircraft using unblended renewable jet biofuel.
The BIC process converts renewable feedstocks such as plant oils, tallow and waste vegetable oil into diesel and jet fuels that, say ARA and CLG, meet petroleum specifications without blending requirements, as well as naphtha that can be used as a gasoline blend stock. ARA describes its Catalytic Hydrothermolysis (CH) process as mimicking nature’s way of converting biomass to petroleum crude, which instead of taking millennia can take less than a minute to turn plant oils into a high-quality crude oil intermediate. CLG’s Isoconversion Catalysts then upgrade the intermediate produced by the CH process into fungible fuels that are nearly identical to petroleum and then marketed as ReadiJet and ReadiDiesel.
“This is a key milestone towards commercial scale production, with initial results showing comparable system performance in the scale-up from our four barrels per day pilot system in Panama City, Florida to the 100 barrels per day demonstration system in St Joseph,” said Rob Sues, CEO of ARA.
Added Leigh Freeman, CEO of Blue Sun, which runs a biodiesel refinery in St Joseph: “Operation of the demonstration system is critical in terms of scaling the process and technology and garnering the insights and experience needed to begin construction on our first commercial facility, which will truly be a landmark for the emerging next-generation biofuels industry.”
The system will be operated in campaigns to produce tens of thousands of gallons of jet fuel and diesel for ASTM certification testing, endurance testing and test flights through to the end of this year, said the partners. Various feedstocks will be tested, including Resonance, an industrial oil feedstock from Agrisoma Biosciences, as well as fatty acid distillate, distillers grain corn oil and tallow to ensure a reliable and cost-effective supply.
“Production of completely fungible jet and diesel fuels from renewable industrial oils and waste oils is a game changer,” said Leon DeBruyn, Managing Director of CLG.
The Canadian flight of a twin-engined Falcon 20 test aircraft belonging to the National Research Council of Canada (NRC) used unblended ReadiJet fuel derived from Brassica carinata, an industrial oil-seed non-food crop grown in Western Canada’s semi-arid region (see article). Tests carried out afterwards by NRC experts found that compared with conventional jet fuel, there was a 50% reduction in aerosol emissions and an improvement of 1.5% improvement in specific fuel consumption, with ground tests showing a significant reduction in particles and black carbon emissions (see article).