Delivering a Sustainable and Affordable Supply of Jet Fuel
The $1 trillion U.S. aviation economy is threatened by its inability to purchase jet fuels that are affordable, are not as harmful to the environment, and meet industry’s rigorous requirements for aviation. Working with DOE’s Bioenergy Technologies Office and industry, scientists and engineers at PNNL are developing catalytic processes that convert low-value, highly dispersed residues and waste materials into chemicals and fuels, like jet fuel, commonly used today.
To meet jet fuel specifications, PNNL researchers use a new hybrid process of lower temperature fermentation and catalysis. The result is a very high-quality, high-yield fuel produced from low-cost alcohols like ethanol. In this case, industry partner LanzaTech provided the ethanol, which was made from industrial waste gases captured from steel production. Fuel samples provided to the Air Force Research Laboratories in July 2014 passed even the most stringent tests – an important step for joining the ranks of renewable jet fuels that are certified for commercial use.
In addition to surpassing performance specifications, the new fuel can reduce greenhouse gas emissions by more than 60 percent compared to fossil-based jet fuel. With steady improvements demonstrated in the laboratory, engineers are building scaled systems that simulate industrial production, ultimately leading to transfer of the technology into commercial operation.