News / USA

US Pacific Northwest Looks to Jump-Start Green Jet Fuel Industry

New report finds signs of an emerging market

A US Navy jet assigned to the Air Test and Evaluation Squadron 23 tests a 50/50 mixture of Camellia seed-based biofuel blend over the skies of Southern Maryland on Earth Day 2010.
A US Navy jet assigned to the Air Test and Evaluation Squadron 23 tests a 50/50 mixture of Camellia seed-based biofuel blend over the skies of Southern Maryland on Earth Day 2010.

Multimedia

Audio
Rosanne Skirble

The U.S. Pacific Northwest is a good place to jump-start a renewable jet fuel industry, a new report finds.

The study, "Powering the Next Generation of Flight," looks at the challenges and opportunities of developing a domestic renewable jet fuel industry that can both reduce U.S. reliance on foreign oil and help clean the air.

The thousands of jet aircraft that crisscross the skies each day all around the world account for two percent of all the greenhouse gases emitted worldwide.

Military jets test biofuels

Military fuel consumption makes the Department of Defense the single largest consumer of petroleum in the United States. And, they are considering biofuels.

Algae-based crude oil
Algae-based crude oil

Last year the Navy’s F-18 fighter planes ran test flights using jet fuel partially made from plant oils. In May the U.S. Air Force’s famed Thunderbirds unit of F-16 fighter/bombers became the first aerial demonstration team to fly on so-called biofuel.

Also this year successful tests were conducted with the Air Force’s big C-17 transport aircraft.

Emerging biojet fuel market

These biofuel test runs are signs of an emerging market, according to the new report released by a private consortium called Sustainable Aviation Fuels Northwest, which supports a renewable jet fuel industry in America’s Pacific Northwest.

The report says running a jet engine on a blend of biofuel, which is an alcohol refined from plants such as algae, maize or soybeans  is much less polluting, and less costly, than using pure petroleum-based fuel.

Camelina is a likely candidate for producing oil for biofuels
Camelina is a likely candidate for producing oil for biofuels

And using biofuels more extensively in aircraft could reduce U.S. dependence on foreign petroleum and protect airline companies, in particular, from volatility in the fuel market.

Keith Loveless, a vice president with Alaska Airlines, says his company saw a 47 percent hike in aircraft fuel prices this year.

“Other airlines have had even worse effects.  The wild swings and prices have resulted in the loss of hundreds and thousands of jobs in our industry.”

Jump-starting the industry

Loveless says unlike other industries, aviation has limited alternatives to improve energy efficiency or stabilize cost.

“We don’t have anything like an electric car that’s out there. You are not going to see solar panels on wings any time soon so we really need to prioritize the application of sustainable biofuels to the aviation sector.”

The report finds the Pacific Northwest is a good place for a renewable jet fuel industry because many airline companies and airplane manufacturers, such as Boeing, are based there.  

And, report co-author Patrick Mazza with the environmental group Climate Solutions says the region has a wide variety of biomass resources to choose from.

“Unlike our current bio-fuel industry which largely relies on two crops - corn and soy beans - we’re talking about a whole range of feed stocks sources including oil seed crops, algae and forest residues.”

The new report envisions a supply chain of growers to produce biomass, refineries to make the fuel and a market of airline companies to purchase it.

An overview of Imperium Renewables' biodiesel refinery in Grays Harbor, Washington
An overview of Imperium Renewables' biodiesel refinery in Grays Harbor, Washington

John Plaza is the founder and chief executive officer of Imperium Renewables.

Since its launch in 2004, the company has become one of the largest independent bio-diesel producers in the United States. Its refinery has the capacity to produce 400 million liters (100 million gallons) of bio-diesel fuel a  year.  

Plaza says Imperium is ready to be a major supplier of sustainable jet fuel.

“Imperium is focused on building that technology at our existing bio-diesel plant and adding on to the facility’s capabilities. So in other words, we are not talking about converting bio-diesel. We’re talking about building additional capacity at our existing facility and using much of the infrastructure that’s there, for example, the storage and the logistics that we have with shipping and rail and truck.”

Plaza says biofuels have met rigorous tests for use in military and commercial aircraft. To forge ahead and build a jet-fuel industry, he believes new federal energy policies and production incentives will be needed.

“And I think that that is really the next step is getting federal support in the realm of long-term policy and ideally purchase commitments from the Department of Defense for these type of fuels to allow for the investors to feel comfortable that this is a credible, solid business that they will get a return on.”

Seeking government support


Washington State representative Jay Inslee has introduced a law in Congress that would extend those Department of Defense contracts from five to 15 years.

“This should be a totally bi-partisan issue.This is good for national security.This is good for economic growth. I’m hopeful on this long-term contract issue that we get this done this year.I’m hopeful.”

Experts predict the potential biofuel market in the United States could be 76 trillion liters a year, supplying both military and commercial aircraft. The Boeing Company’s vice president for environment and aviation policy,

Billy Glover, hopes renewables can capture at least one percent of that market within five years. “We’ve set that as a near term target. But the first one percent is the hardest one percent.” And, Glover adds, from there it’s a matter of scaling up to grow the market, with a model that can meet the demand for jet biofuel not only in the United States but around the world.

You May Like

Philippines, Muslim Rebels Try to Salvage Peace Pact

Peace process faces major setback after botched military operation to find terrorists results in bloody gunbattle between government forces, Moro Islamic Liberation Front fighters More

Republicans Expect Long, Expensive Presidential Battle

Political strategist says eventual winner will be one who can put together strongest coalition of various conservative groups that make up Republican Party More

Video New Wheelchair Is Easier to Use, Increases Mobility

Engineers have come up with a lever-operated design that makes use of easily accessible bicycle technology More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grievingi
X
Benno Muchler
March 26, 2015 3:41 PM
Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video US, South Korea Conduct Joint Military Exercises

The Eighth U.S. Army Division and the Eighth Republic of Korea Mechanized Infantry Division put on a well orchestrated show of force for the media this week during their joint military training exercises in South Korea. VOA’s Seoul correspondent Brian Padden was there and reports the soldiers were well disciplined both in conducting a complex live fire exercise and in staying on message with the press.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Young Filmmakers Shine Spotlight on Giving Back

A group of student filmmakers from across the United States joined President Barack Obama at the White House this month for the second annual White House Student Film Festival. Fifteen short films were officially selected from more than 1,500 entries by students aged 6 through 18. The filmmakers and their families then joined the president and a group of celebrities for a screening of their films. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video VOA Exclusive: Interview with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, during his first visit as president to Washington, gave a one-on-one interview with VOA Afghan Service reporter Said Suleiman Ashna, about his request for a change in U.S. troop levels, the threat from the Islamic State, and repairing relations with the United States and Pakistan. The interview was held at Blair House, late Sunday, in Pashto.
Video

Video California Science Center Tells Story of Dead Sea Scrolls

The ancient manuscripts were uncovered in the mid-20th century, and they are still yielding clues about life and religious beliefs in ancient Israel. As VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports, an exhibit in Los Angeles shows how modern science is bringing the history of these ancient documents to life.
Video

Video Angelina Jolie Takes Another Bold Step

Hollywood actress and filmmaker Angelina Jolie has revealed she had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to lower her odds of getting cancer. Doctors say the huge publicity over her decision will help raise awareness about the importance of cancer screening. VOA’s George Putic has more

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More