EERC awarded subcontract by SAIC to help produce military renewable jet fuel from algae
EERC supplied the renewable military jet fuel for the rocket test
Fri 31 July 2009 – The Energy & Environmental Research Center (EERC) at the University of North Dakota has been awarded a subcontract by Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC) to help produce military JP-8 jet fuel from algae. Funding for the work is coming from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), which is seeking to develop the technical capability and ultimately commercialize the affordable production of military JP-8 surrogate fuel from algal feedstocks. Last week, renewable JP-8 fuel developed and produced by EERC successfully powered a rocket test flight.
Under the algae subcontract, SAIC and EERC will supply fuel samples from EERC’s liquid fuel demonstration facilities for government test and evaluation.
As a result of a previous DARPA contract, the EERC advanced the development of a feedstock-flexible process that can utilize various crop oil feedstocks to produce combinations of renewable jet fuel, diesel and naptha (a constituent used to create chemicals and gasoline) that are essentially identical to their petroleum-derived counterparts. The EERC will utilize the same proprietary technology to produce jet fuel from algal oils.
“With algae, the EERC will expand feedstock options for our renewable fuel technology,” said Chad Wocken, EERC Senior Research Manager. “With each feedstock tested, the technology is optimized to achieve maximum conversion of feedstock to fuel, resulting in lower-cost fuels.”
The EERC says the information gathered during the effort will support development of a design for a pilot test facility with the flexibility to produce either diesel or jet fuel in response to market demand, and will allow for a detailed assessment of the economic viability of its renewable oil-refining technology.
San Diego-based SAIC was awarded the original $14.9 million DARPA contract in January (see story) to conduct research at a number of its facilities across the US, and is due to complete by March 2010. SAIC is seeking to identify ways to minimize the cost of algae production and achieve DARPA’s JP-8 cost target of $3 per gallon. In addition to being economically viable, the renewable fuels must be fully interchangeable with existing fuels and distribution networks, do not negatively impact the world’s food supply and are environmentally benign.
EERC supplied 8 gallons of renewable JP-8 fuel derived from canola and soybeans, enough for two launches of the rocket built by Flometrics. The rocket had previously been tested with standard commercial Jet-A fuel and rocket propellant-1 (RP-1) kerosene, for which it was originally designed.
The test flight, which took place in the Mojave Desert, was pronounced a success as the rocket approached Mach 1 (the speed of sound) and reached an altitude of about 20,000 feet. Developed through a variety of existing contracts, the fuel was tested at the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base Air Force Research Laboratory, a co-sponsor of the rocket test, and met all of the screening criteria for JP-8 aviation fuel.