Virent says Rolls-Royce testing shows its renewable jet fuel cuts harmful particulates by over half
Thu 21 Jan 2016 – US-based Virent says testing of its blended jet biofuel product shows a greater than 50% reduction in particulate matter emissions compared to conventional jet fuel, so providing both health and environmental benefits. Testing was carried out by Rolls-Royce and supported by the FAA under the Continuous Lower Energy, Emissions and Noise (CLEEN) programme. The emissions data and other successfully completed test results have been summarised and published in a report by Rolls-Royce, British Airways and the FAA. Meanwhile, Alaska Airlines has ordered 1,000 gallons of alternative alcohol-to-jet (ATJ) fuel from Gevo for use in commercial flights sometime this year and Japan Airlines is to build a demo facility near Tokyo to produce jet biofuels from waste.
As with Gevo, Virent’s BioForm Synthesized Aromatic Kerosene (SAK) fuel is still undergoing testing by external industry parties as part of the ASTM certification process. Gevo announced last month that following a data revision based on feedback from the ASTM ATJ-SPK Taskforce, a ballot by ASTM committee members on the revised specification for ATJ fuel would take place during January.
Virent’s patented technology features catalytic chemistry to convert plant-based materials into a range of fuels and chemicals, including drop-in renewable jet fuels.
Virent was initially chosen to participate in a laboratory test programme run by Rolls-Royce in collaboration with British Airways before selection for more advanced rig testing. Having met all the test requirements, says Virent, the report concluded the fuel “… offers the potential to be [a] drop-in fuel and hence achieve approval for use for the aviation industry.”
The company says the fuel produced at its pilot demonstration plant in Wisconsin contains aromatics that are cleaner burning than conventional jet fuels and the Rolls-Royce testing showed it to have a capability for a 50% to 80% reduction in particulates, depending on engine operating conditions.
Virent is actually developing two jet fuel products: Hydrodeoxygenated Synthesized Kerosene (SK), which consists of C9-C16 paraffins and naphthenes, and Hydrodeoxygenated Synthesized Aromatic Kerosene (SAK), which consists of C9-C11 aromatics. The BioForm process then blends the two products to produce the required chemical properties for jet fuel. Virent says the resulting fuel meets or exceeds key requirements for petroleum-derived jet fuel, with good energy density and superior performance at cold temperatures. It adds that these properties are achieved without an isomerisation/hydrocracking step, which usually results in a yield loss in other technologies.
“We believe Virent’s bio-derived SAK fuel has the potential to provide the aviation industry with a cost-effective solution to reduce jet engine particulate matter and greenhouse gas emissions without impacting engine performance,” said CEO Lee Edwards.
In 2011, Virent received a federal award of $13.4 million from the US Department of Energy to develop its catalytic process to convert corn stover to jet fuel. The technology development is currently being supported by strategic partners Cargill, Coca-Cola, Honda and Shell.
Meanwhile, it is reported from Japan that Japan Airlines (JAL), in collaboration with other organisations that include the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, is planning to build a demonstration plant east of Tokyo that would supply the airline with biofuel converted from hydrogen and carbon monoxide from waste using a catalytic process. It is expected to be in operation by 2020, the year that the Olympic Games will be held in the city. The Nikkei report says JAL plans to market the technology through a foreign company.