Renewable jet fuels from Amyris and Gevo make advances on approvals and towards commercial supply
Amyris biorefinery in Brotas, Brazil
Thu 8 Jan 2015 – Brazil’s fuel regulator ANP has approved the use of Amyris renewable jet fuel for commercial airline use in blends of up to 10 per cent. With the fuel being produced at the Amyris biorefinery at Brotas in south-eastern Brazil, this clears the way for its commercialisation in the country. The farnesane product, developed in partnership with French oil giant Total, is converted from sugarcane, which in time could be extended to other plant sugars. Meanwhile, fellow US biofuel company Gevo has announced a successful first supersonic test flight using a 50/50 blend of the company’s alcohol-to-jet (ATJ) fuel. The US Navy flight was conducted on a F/A-18 Hornet and is a significant milestone leading to a military specification approval of the fuel that would allow for commercial supply to the US Navy and Marine Corps, said the company. ATJ fuel pathways are currently being evaluated for regulatory approval in commercial airline operations.
Amyris CEO John Melo said Brazil imported much of its jet fuel yet taxed renewable fuels at rates that could sometimes exceed taxes on fossil fuels. “At Amyris, we believe our jet fuel represents a great opportunity for Brazil to support local economic development and reduce the country’s dependence on imported fuel, all the while contributing to reductions in carbon emissions,” he said.
Citing a recent study published in the scientific journal Environment Science & Technology, Amyris says a carbon footprint evaluation by Brazilian researchers of its sugarcane-derived farnesane concluded it had a base case net life-cycle emission of 8.5 grams CO2eq/Mj. When compared with its fossil equivalent, this would represent a reduction of around 90% on a life-cycle basis, claims the California-based company.
“The airline industry continues to experience strong growth and while current low oil prices may provide a short-lived respite, the impact of carbon pollution is undeniable,” said Melo. “Amyris and its partners are contributing to reductions in greenhouse gas emissions with our renewable fuel. We are pleased that leading airlines such as Air France, Lufthansa and KLM are, or soon will be, flying with a blend of our fuel.”
To increase resilience and dependency on fossil fuels, the US Navy is exploring alternative drop-in fuel sources, such as Gevo’s ATJ produced at a demo biorefinery in Texas using isobutanol produced from the company’s fermentation facility in Minnesota.
“We have proven that ATJ fuel is a viable alternative for both military and commercial applications,” said Gevo CEO Patrick Gruber. “We’ve validated that the isobutanol is an affordable, clean-burning, US-made, drop-in fuel that can also be further processed into direct replacement hydrocarbon products such as ATJ fuel.”