Going For Green Jet Fuel

September 17, 2010 | 13 Comments

Of all the petroleum uses flight is the one where energy density, the weight of a fuel per the energy within, is crucial for performance.  At about 8% of the total use of petroleum, aviation fuel is a clear target.  Two biofuel companies are headed for taking a share from fossil oil.

So far many tests have been conducted using a wide variety of biofuels in jet engines.  To no surprise they all pass because the ignition and combustion in a jet is external rather than internal such as a diesel or gasoline engine.  These points make aviation a biofuel prime market target.

Joule, the Cambridge Mass company that has a pilot plant in Texas, asserts now that it can make diesel, a hydrocarbon very close to aviation jet fuel for as little as $30 a barrel using their mystery patented bacteria.  Joule has also patented their cyanobacteria or blue green algae, #7,794,969. The Joule bacteria are reported to secrete the oil.

Secretion skips several steps used to get to sugars for making a fuel product.  Joule claims to be the first company to patent a single-step, continuous process that doesn’t require a feedstock for fuel production. Joule CEO Bill Sims says in a company statement, “Our vision since inception has been to overcome the limitations of biomass-based technologies, from feedstock costs and logistics to inefficient, energy-intensive processing.”

Joule's Graphical Production Block Diagram. Click image for the largest view.

The patent reveals Joule combines two enzymes with the cyanobacteria to create an organism that can create hydrocarbons or chemicals. Joule is now testing its system to make diesel and ethanol in Texas where sunlight and waste CO2 are fed into its bioreactors. The organisms grow, the fuel is harvested, and the organisms are then returned back into the growing solution. Joule’s bioreactors control heat and light to optimize growth.  Joule plans to begin steady pilot production of diesel at the end of 2010 and open a commercial plant in 2012. Its pilot tests for ethanol production show it can be produced at a rate of 10,000 gallons per acre per year.   That’s a major gain over corn or sugarcane.

Ocean Nutrition Canada found unique microorganism in the waters off Canada’s Atlantic coast that might represent an alternative future of jet fuel production.  Ocean Nutrition Canada, the world’s largest supplier of Omega-3 fatty acid supplements, has discovered a kind of super-algae that, according to experts, is dramatically more efficient at producing oil than other types of algae being used for biofuel production.

Backed by Canada’s Sustainable Development Technology Canada (SDTC), who is saying the newly discovered single-cell algae species is 60 times more productive than other algae, Ocean Nutrition is running a four-year demonstration project for fuel production.  Ocean Nutrition’s scientists happened upon the algae species after a thorough screening of hundreds of different microorganisms. The company has since learned how to grow it and keep a stockpile in cryogenic reserve. Ian Lucas, executive vice-president of innovation and strategy at Ocean Nutrition, said to Tyler Hamilton at Canada’s The Star, “We were looking and we got lucky. The SDTC program is focused on our ability to take this and turn it into jet fuel. We’re going to demonstrate the ability to grow the algae on a large scale.”

This is a project not to be overlooked – Ocean Nutrition has partnered with the National Research Council, military contractor Lockheed Martin, and UOP LLC, a Honeywell company that supplies technologies to the petroleum industry. UOP’s job is to take the algae oil and turn it into a green jet fuel that can directly replace conventional jet fuel.

Aviation is the most weight conscious of the transport businesses. As a practical matter anything on the ground or floating can tolerate weight variations from fossil fuels energy density advantage.  But, planes in all likelihood, can not.  If aviation is to back out from fossil fuel derived fuels biomass sources offer the only viable answer for the foreseeable future.

Canada does seem to get the idea that aviation fuel from biomass is a huge niche well worth pursuing.  The SDTC is also involved with biosciences firm Targeted Growth Canada and its partners, including Bombardier Aerospace, Pratt & Whitney Canada and once again Honeywell’s UOP LLC, who will convert camelina oil into jet fuel with the promise of an 80 per cent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. Camelina is a hardy oilseed crop that grows well on dry, marginal land, so using it in this way isn’t considered direct competition with food.

Oh, Canada! –  From the aviation community for sure! Oil or not, the planes will keep flying.


13 Comments so far

  1. russ on September 17, 2010 10:49 AM

    Let one of them actually produce biofuel and we will see what they will contract a few million gallons for.

    The 30 USD per barrel from Joule is pure BS I believe. So far they are all talk and no output.

  2. Dona Bentley on September 18, 2010 9:34 AM

    Your vision is very helpful to modern technologies. Thank you 😉

  3. Far East Cable: shine the light of scientific and technological innovation "capital" on September 23, 2010 5:07 PM

    […] Going For Green Jet Fuel | New Energy and FuelConan O'Brien Production Company Teams With NBC For New Pilot … Tags: amp, industry, innovation, National, number, Research Posted in Business, Corporate […]

  4. jimW on October 19, 2010 1:23 PM

    GreenGas.cc makes zero emission jet fuel for lower cost than todays carbon jet fuel, no bacteria, no feedstock, what more are we searching for ?

  5. Evan Precht on May 21, 2011 9:26 AM

    Good! Thank you! I always wanted to write in my site something like that. Can I take part of your post to my blog?

  6. Rich Corporal on September 6, 2011 10:06 AM

    I was just having a conversation over this I am glad I came across this it cleared some of the questions I had.

  7. Tifany Harlan on September 9, 2011 10:22 AM

    I REALLY liked your post and blog! It took me a minute bit to find your site…but I bookmarked it. Would you mind if I posted a link back to your post?

  8. Pattie Dampier on September 13, 2011 9:35 AM

    Nice post! You truly have a wonderful way of writing which I find captivating! I will definitely be bookmarking you and returning to your blog. In fact, your post reminded me about a strange thing that happened to me the other day. I’ll tell you about that later…

  9. Laura Lough on October 4, 2011 8:54 AM

    Intriguing post. I have been searching for some good resources for solar panels and discovered your blog. Planning to bookmark this one!

  10. Hai Goring on October 10, 2011 9:20 AM

    Interesting read, perhaps the best article iv’e browse today. We learn everyday cheers to you!

  11. Dorinda Navar on October 12, 2011 9:16 AM

    Great read. Thanks for the info!

  12. plus.google.com on October 19, 2012 1:11 AM

    ӏt’s difficult to find knowledgeable people for this topic, however, you sound like you know what you’гe talkіng abοut!


  13. rick on October 19, 2012 8:30 AM

    GreenNH3 is 50 cents a liter and zero emissions. They just peered it at a 6th university. The inventors have done their jobs. Where are the money guys? I think they look for backers.

Name (required)

Email (required)


Speak your mind