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FAA Awards $7.7 Million for Advancement of Aviation Biofuels

In an encouraging move for the biofuels industry, the FAA announced it is awarding $7.7 million to eight companies to advance the development of drop-in commercial aviation biofuels, with a significant focus on ATJ (alcohol to jet) fuel.

As part of its CAAFI (Commercial Aviation Alternative Fuel Initiative) and CLEEN (Continuous Lower Emissions, Energy and Noise) programs, the FAA hopes to assist in the development of a sustainable fuel (from alcohols, sugars, biomass, and organic matter such as pyrolysis oils) that can be “dropped in” to aircrafts without changing current infrastructure. The grant will also be used to research how the fuels affect engine durability and quality control standards. 

“These new green aviation fuels will use energy sources right here at home,” said U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood in a press release.  “This type of innovation will create good-paying jobs in the airline and energy industries and help protect the environment at the same time.”

The eight companies awarded include:

  • $1.1 million for Honeywell UOP of Des Plaines, Ill.
  • $3 million for LanzaTech, Inc. of Roselle, Ill.
  • $1.5 million for Virent Energy Systems of Madison, Wisc.
  • $1.5 million for Velocys, Inc. of Plain City, Ohio
  • $280,000 for Honeywell Aerospace of Phoenix, Ariz.
  • $250,000 for Metron Aviation, Inc. of Dulles, Va.
  • $50,000 for Futurepast: Inc. of Arlington, Va.
  • $25,000 for Life Cycle Associates, LLC of Portola Valley, Calif.

Honeywell UOP, already a successful industry player with more than 20 test and commercial flights and recent ASTM approval for commercial flight, is specifically tasked to develop 100 gallons of isobutanol-derived (sugar-, corn-based, etc.) fuel by 2012. “The development of new second-generation biofeedstock conversion technology is critical to support growing energy needs and speed commercial availability," said Jim Rekoske, vice president and general manager for Renewable Energy & Chemicals at Honeywell's UOP, in a written statement. 

Receiving the lion’s share of the contracts, a consortium led by LanzaTech is tasked to produce 100 or more gallons of jet fuel to be tested by the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory. The technology produces alcohols from the gasses derived from lignin, a byproduct of cellulosic ethanol. Swedish Biofuels will provide the conversion technology, and Michigan Technical University will determine lifecycle benefits and the integration process.  Imperium and Battelle will assess potential commercial production sites and resources.

John Plaza, CEO of Imperium, said in a written statement, “With FAA providing this grant to this consortium of industry leaders significant progress can be made toward the certification of ATJ, with near term viable commercial production pathways.”

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