Camelina Biofuel Powers US Navy F/A-18 Test Flight

Sustainable Oils supplied the camelina-based biojet fuel that powered a test flight of the U.S. Navy’s F/A-18 “Green Hornet” aircraft last week on Earth Day. Taking place at the Naval Air Warfare Center in Patuxent River, Maryland, the flight was the first to demonstrate the performance of a 50-50 blend of camelina-based biojet fuel and traditional petroleum-based jet fuel at supersonic speeds.

According to the U.S. Navy, the Green Hornet performed as engineers expected, successfully completing all aspects of the test flight. The fuel was produced by Honeywell’s UOP using its renewable jet fuel process technology and the flight won the praise of Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus, who has provided ongoing leadership in the Navy’s focus on renewable energy and attended the test flight.

“The alternative fuels test program is a significant milestone in the certification and ultimate operational use of biofuels by the Navy and Marine Corps,” Secretary of the Navy Mabus said. “It’s important to emphasize, especially on Earth Day, the Navy’s commitment to reducing dependence on foreign oil as well as safeguarding our environment. Our Navy, alongside industry, the other services and federal agency partners, will continue to be an early adopter of alternative energy sources.”

In September 2009, Sustainable Oils was awarded a contract by the Defense Energy Support Center to supply camelina-based jet fuel to the U.S. Navy.  The contract was for 100,000 gallons of HRJ-8 beginning 2009 through 2010, and includes an option to purchase an additional 100,000 gallons between June 2010 and December 2012. The camelina for the contract, including the Green Hornet test flight, was primarily grown in 2009 and harvested in September 2009 by farmers in Montana. The company also has several field trials in Washington State.

“The success of the Navy’s Earth Day flight again demonstrates that camelina-based jet fuel meets the quality and performance requirements that these aircraft demand,” said Tom Todaro, CEO of Sustainable Oils.  “We look forward to continuing to work with the U.S. military, as well as commercial airlines, to provide the next generation of domestically-produced aviation biofuels that create revenue and jobs in rural areas, decrease greenhouse gas emissions, and reduce our nation’s dependence on foreign energy sources.”

Sustainable Oils also provided the camelina-based jet fuel that powered the historic flight of a U.S. Air Force A-10C Thunderbolt II on March 25, 2010, which flew from Florida’s Eglin Air Force Base on a 50-50 blend of camelina-based jet fuel and traditional jet fuel. The 90-minute flight marked the first time that any aircraft has been powered by conventional and biomass-based fuel in all engines.

Camelina was selected for initial testing by the military because it does not compete with food crops, has been proven to reduce carbon emissions by more than 80 percent, and has already been successfully tested in a Japan Airlines commercial test flight in January, 2009. In addition, camelina has naturally high oil content, and requires less fertilizer and herbicides. A life cycle analysis (LCA) of jet fuel created from camelina conducted at Michigan Tech University in conjunction with UOP LLC, a Honeywell Company, and Sustainable Oils found that the renewable fuel reduces carbon emissions by 80 percent compared to petroleum jet fuel. 

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