ASTM approval of ethanol-based renewable jet fuels a green light for LanzaTech and Byogy
Fri 13 Apr 2018 – Global standards body ASTM International has completed its revision of alcohol-to-jet (ATJ) fuel specifications that will enable jet fuel to be produced from ethanol, so paving the way for renewable jet fuel from technology companies LanzaTech and Byogy to be used on commercial flights. Under ASTM’s ballot procedure, various technical committees have agreed to add ethanol as an approved feedstock in ASTM D7566 Annex A5, the standard specification for aviation turbine fuel containing synthesised hydrocarbons for ATJ synthetic paraffinic kerosene (ATJ-SPK). Isobutanol-derived jet fuel was the first ATJ-SPK to be specified under Annex A5 two years ago, which allowed Gevo’s renewable jet fuel product to be used in commercial airline operations in blends permitted up to 30%. The latest revision to the annex also lifts the blend ratio limit for ATJ-SPK fuels to 50%.
Although technically the eligibility was final as of April 1, the revision formally comes into effect when it is published on the ASTM International website in the coming months.
LanzaTech, which has been supported in the process by launch partner Virgin Atlantic Airways, says its ethanol-based ATJ-SPK product will be eligible for use as a blending component with standard Jet A/Jet A1 for commercial airline use in the United States and in most countries around the globe. The Chicago-headquartered company says it is now preparing a design and engineering package for an ATJ production facility implementing the technology originally developed by the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and scaled up by LanzaTech, the ethanol-based ATJ-SPK pathway now accepted under ASTM D7566.
The design will be for a facility than can produce 3 million gallons per year of ATJ blendstock and diesel using sustainable ethanol feedstocks from LanzaTech’s gas fermentation process, which uses feedstocks such as industrial off gas; biomass wastes and residues; and unsorted, unrecyclable municipal solid waste. Because ethanol-based ATJ-SPK can use ethanol produced from any feedstock and using any conversion technology, its inclusion in Annex A5 means sustainable aviation fuel can be produced anywhere in the world from available environmentally, economically and socially sustainable feedstocks in each region, claims the company.
“The key here is scale,” said LanzaTech CEO Dr Jennifer Holmgren. “Ethanol can be made from large volumes of locally available, low cost, low carbon feedstocks. This makes the inclusion hugely significant in supporting the aviation sector’s decarbonisation targets. Where there’s a lot of sustainable ethanol, there is now the potential for a lot of low carbon jet fuel.”
The global network of ethanol production and distribution is well established, as is the downstream petroleum infrastructure delivering jet fuel, and the new ASTM specification will allow these two global supply chains to connect so as to produce significant volumes of renewable jet fuel, and in places where it could not be produced before, points out Byogy Renewables.
“It’s one thing to have a great commodity product but without an operative supply chain, it’s difficult to sell,” said CEO Kevin Weiss. “We now have the ability to supplement and leverage the existing downstream petroleum industry with a well-distributed ATJ sustainable aviation fuel that can be produced anywhere by building on the existing global ethanol supply chain.”
The California-based company maintains its ATJ product can be used as a 100% drop-in fuel by airlines but it will commercialise using the new 50% specification and “in parallel continue to advance the ASTM process to develop a full replacement specification.”
Byogy first teamed with Brazilian airline Avianca in 2013 for flight testing and data acquisition of its fuel to support the ASTM ATJ specification adoption process (see article).
Commenting on the ASTM revision, Bob Dinneen, CEO of the Renewable Fuels Association, the trade body for the US ethanol industry, said: “We now may have a viable means whereby ethanol can play a significant role in support of decarbonising the aviation sector. It is exciting to have yet another market opportunity for ethanol.”