US Navy awards alternative sustainable jet fuel contract to camelina-based supplier Sustainable Oils
Engine testing of the camelina-based jet biofuel will be carried out on an F/A-18 Super Hornet aircraft (photo: US Navy)
Mon 21 Sep 2009 – Montana-based Sustainable Oils is to supply the US Navy with 40,000 gallons (151,000 litres) of camelina-based jet fuel under a contract awarded by the Defense Energy Support Center (DESC), with an option included to deliver up to an additional 150,000 gallons (570,000 litres). The fuel will undergo certification testing during the course of 2009 by the Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) fuels team at its Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division in Patuxent River, Maryland. In January, Sustainable Oils supplied camelina-based jet fuel for the Japan Airlines’ demonstration flight.
Depending on results, the NAVAIR team is looking to conduct flight tests on a F/A-18 Super Hornet aircraft by next spring or summer (see story). The biofuel will be mixed in a 50/50 blend with conventional petroleum-derived naval-specification JP-5 jet fuel.
Sustainable Oils said camelina was selected by the DESC because it does not compete with food crops, has been proven to reduce carbon emissions by more than 80% and had already been successfully tested in a commercial airline test flight. In addition, said the company, “camelina has naturally high oil content, is drought tolerant and requires less fertilizer and herbicides, is an excellent rotation crop with wheat and it can also grow on marginal land.”
The camelina for the contract was primarily grown in 2009 and harvested recently in Montana, and the company claims the crop is the most readily available renewable feedstock to meet the Navy’s criteria. Sustainable Oils says it has the largest camelina research programme in the US and has conducted more than 140 trials since 2005. It is evaluating more than 90 breeding populations of camelina to analyze agronomic and oil qualities and is developing new high-yielding varieties in partnership with its Seattle-based agricultural biotech parent company Targeted Growth.
A recent life-cycle analysis of camelina-based jet fuel conducted at the Michigan Technological University in conjunction with UOP found that carbon emissions were reduced by up to 80% compared with conventional petroleum jet fuel (see story).
“This contract reflects the great promise of camelina as a readily-available drop-in replacement for aviation fuel,” said Scott Johnson, President of Sustainable Oils. “It also sends a strong message to farmers that there will be a long-term market for camelina oil. We look forward to working with an even larger group of growers in 2010 to meet the increased demand.”