Senators gird for fight over U.S. Navy's 'Green Fleet'
(7/18/12, R. Rampton, S. Cornwell, Reuters) - U.S. senators who support the Pentagon's push to expand its use of biofuels said they have a plan to answer critics who argue the fuel is far too expensive to help develop at a time when the military faces massive cuts. The battle on Capitol Hill comes as the U.S. Navy's "Great Green Fleet" prepares to run military exercises in the central Pacific that will, on Thursday, feature its first operational test of biofuels. The U.S. military is the world's largest single buyer of oil. The Obama administration has argued "Green Fleet" spending on biofuels could help boost production to commercial levels, eventually lowering prices for alternatives to oil, and reducing dependence on supplies from the Middle East. For Thursday's demonstration project, the Navy paid more than $26 per gallon for the fuel, made from renewable sources like algae and chicken fat, a $12-million outlay that sparked congressional anger. Republican critics of the biofuel plan, led by senators John McCain and James Inhofe, found enough support within the Senate Armed Services Committee in May for two proposals that could limit additional spending. The measures would stop spending on fuels that cost more than conventional fuels, and prevent spending on refineries that would help scale up production of still-experimental fuels. They were added to a bill authorizing defense programs in 2013...
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There currently is a lot of domestic political opposition to fed funding for things like alternative fuels, especially when there is no immediate need for it, war or fuel shortage. That debate is heating up in Congress, as well as the debate about carbon taxes imposed on airlines operating international routes by the European Union plus a few other governments. The latter is tied to the debate on global warning, another hot-button topic.
(Bloomberg News, 8/1, McQuillen) reports, "A US Senate panel approved legislation that would exempt" US air "carriers from European Union greenhouse-gas limits" known as the Emissions Trading Scheme, that the airlines "say would cost them more than $3.1 billion by 2020." The Senate Commerce Committee voted on the measure allowing "the US Transportation secretary discretion to prohibit compliance could set up a showdown with the EU over the fees it plans to charge airlines for the pollution they produce." In December, the article mentions, US "Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton sent a letter to the EU...saying the program is 'the wrong way' to cut the release of gases scientists tie to climate change."
Aemetis Licenses Biofuel Process From Chevron Venture With CB&I
(A. Herndon, 8/27, Bloomberg) Aemetis Inc. (AMTX), a U.S. producer of biofuels and renewable chemicals, plans to make jet fuel and diesel using technology developed by a joint venture of Chevron Corp. (CVX) and Chicago Bridge & Iron Co. The technology from Chevron Lummus Global LLC uses water to convert plant oils into products that are similar to petroleum crude and are refined into fuel, Cupertino, California-based Aemetis said today in a statement. Licensing the technology will accelerate Aemetis’s efforts to commercialize “drop-in” renewable jet fuel and diesel. These differ from competing biofuels because they may be used without blending standard, petroleum-based products, said Leon de Bruyn, managing director of Chevron Lummus. “The biodiesel and biojet produced from the unit are truly fungible” products that replace petroleum-derived fuels, he said in the statement. Chevron Lummus is equally owned by Chevron and CB&I. ...
How The Return Of Supersonic Flight Will Revolutionize Travel
(A. Davies, 8/30/12, BusinessInsider) Since the last flight of the Concorde, a turbo-jet powered supersonic passenger plane, in 2003, jet travel has been stubbornly stuck at the same subsonic speed. As the troubled history of the Concorde (and its lesser Soviet counterpart, the Tupolev Tu-144) showed, supersonic air travel depends on overcoming a lot of obstacles, from the pesky sonic boom to high cost, safety issues and insatiable fuel consumption. So airlines have given up the quest to reduce travel times, and have focused on fitting more passengers into their planes for less. These days, the closest anyone who isn’t an Air Force pilot or astronaut can get to Mach III is using a Gillette razor. But the dream of jetting from New York to Tokyo in under three hours hasn’t been abandoned. Among travelers, especially the wealthy, there’s still demand for shorter flight times, especially since air travel has become so unpleasant in recent years. And there’s a young but growing market to meet that demand. More than a few private aerospace companies hope to cash in on the (really) high speed jet travel market. And NASA’s in on the game, too. There’s no great secret to supersonic flight: It’s about adding power until the aircraft can break the sound barrier. That power has always come from conventional fuel, and lots of it. With the clock ticking on fossil fuels, future aircraft will need to use less fuel or rely on renewable energy sources. Hypermach Aerospace Ltd is working on a hybrid electric turbine propulsion system to power the SonicStar jet it’s developing. More outlandishly, EADS, the parent company of Airbus, wants to use biofuel made from seaweed in the Zero Emission Hypersonic Transport (ZEHST), which will fly at Mach 4. That’s a lot of seaweed, but since EADS notes the ZHEST won’t be ready for at least 40 years, it has the time to figure everything out. Trickier than the fuel dilemma is the problem posed by the sonic boom. When an aircraft travels faster than the speed of sound (768 mph), it pushes air molecules aside with enough force to create a shock wave, resulting in a thunder-like boom. Even when it is generated thousands of feet above the ground, that boom is so loud that the United States banned supersonic flight over its territory. Other countries did the same, drastically limiting the routes the Concorde could fly, hurting its economic potential. To bring back supersonic flight, aircraft designers have to find a way to eliminate the boom, or quiet it enough to make it acceptable. One proposal by Lockheed Martin includes the installation of an inverted-V on the airplane’s tail, which the corporation believes could limit the level of sonic booms. There’s another way to eliminate the boom: leave the atmosphere altogether. XCOR Aerospace believes the future of high speed travel is in outer space. “Rockets are the way to go,” says COO Andrew Nelson. XCOR is pioneering the idea of point-to-point space travel, starting with the Lynx, a suborbital commercial spacecraft that will take off and land like a conventional plane, but cruise at Mach 3.5 (2,688 mph). It will be “much more like a fighter pilot experience” than business class, says Nelson, but it will make for an incredibly quick trip: New York to Tokyo in 90 minutes. As to when supersonic flight will be available to anyone who can afford it, the estimates range tremendously. Aerion is already working with FAA officials to secure certification for its Supersonic Business Jet, which it aims to have in the air by the end of the decade. XCOR hopes to start test flights of the Lynx by early 2013, with the goal of offering point-to-point travel (as opposed to taking off and landing in the same place) by 2030. The ZEHST is shooting for 2050; JAXA, the Japanese equivalent of NASA, conservatively bets economical and environmentally-friendly supersonic travel will be available “in the 21st century.” Of course, “economical” is a relative term. These aircraft, like the Concorde before them, will be the preserve of the wealthy. That isn’t to say high speed flight will always remain off limits to the middle class. Aviation has been a commercial industry for little more than a century, and is now widely accessible. Once the technology is established, airlines will likely compete to offer it to more and more customers, for lower and lower prices. International business will get easier, friends and families separated by oceans will see each other more often, and the world will get a little smaller...
Lufthansa, Algae.Tec To Build Algae-Based Aviation Fuel Plant.
The Business Green (9/21) reports, "Lufthansa will team up with Australian biofuels company Algae.Tec to build a large-scale plant producing aviation fuels from algae." It is expected to be located in an "unnamed European country adjacent to an industrial CO2 source," although Lufthansa's board still needs to approve the deal. Meanwhile, in another announcement, "aircraft traffic services company NATS has teamed up with British Airways (BA) for a four-month trial of environmentally 'perfect' transatlantic flights, which could help reduce the impact of the projected doubling of European air traffic by 2030." If successful, an "optimised flight profile and continuous descent approach" could save 500kg in fuel per flight.
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Last edited by Cubdriver; 09-21-2012 at 10:17 AM.
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The Dayton (OH) Business Journal (9/22, Cogliano) reported, "A division of Honeywell International Inc. is being tapped by the US Air Force to expand the domestic supply of biofuels." The division will "help create an economically viable refinery for what's known as advanced drop-in biofuels" that can be used by planes without any modifications. The article noted this comes as the Air Force also announced the Assured Aerospace Fuels Research Facility that "is being billed as a highly-versatile, cutting edge facility designed to help fill a much-needed gap in the fuel research effort, allowing government, industry and academia researchers to produce the optimum quantities of fuel needed to perform laboratory research without resorting to full-scale production efforts."
USDA announces sixth grant to develop advanced biofuels.
(H. Jessen, EthanolProducer, 10/18/12) Switchgrass is one of the three biomass crops that will be studied in the course of a $10 million, five-year research project in the Northeast. The USDA announced a five-year, $10 million grant has been awarded to research shrub willow, switchgrass and miscanthus grown on marginal and abandoned lands, such as reclaimed mine sites, in the Northeast. This is the sixth grant awarded through USDA's Agriculture and Food Research Initiative, which is working to develop regional renewable energy markets to create jobs and reduce U.S. dependence on foreign oil. Five other regional systems were previously formed in the Pacific Northwest, the Northwest, Northern states, Southern states, and the Southeast. “This will basically complete our efforts in every corner of the country as part of our overall effort to promote biofuel, both in terms of automobiles and truck transportation as well as aviation and marine fuel,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack during an Oct. 16 conference call...
(AOPA Online, 10/30/12, T. Horne) ...In other news, Gulfstream showed its commitment to green fuels by flying all five of its demonstration airplanes to NBAA2012 in Orlando on a 50-50 blend of biofuel and Jet A. The biofuel, dubbed Honeywell Green Jet Fuel, was made from camelina—a non-food plant that can be grown in rotation with wheat and other cereal crops. Gulfstream said that based on lifetime cycle studies, burning each gallon of the biofuel instead of Jet A reduces carbon dioxide equivalent emissions by 68 percent. Scott Neal, Gulfstream senior vice president of sales and marketing, said, “Using biofuels is part of a multipronged approach Gulfstream has taken toward sustainability. In addition to reducing our carbon footprint, we’re focused on improving aircraft efficiencies.”
Senate Moves To End Restrictions on Military Biofuels
(Flying, S. Pope, 12/04/12) The U.S. Senate is moving to eliminate restrictions on Department of Defense research into alternative jet fuel sources, a reversal that could help speed biofuel development. The 67-32 vote removes language from the National Defense Authorization Act that would have prevented the military from purchasing biofuels if they cost more than traditional fuels – and at this early point in their development, they always do. The Air Force has been testing small quantities of alternative fuels in warplanes and support aircraft in order to demonstrate their reliability, with a plan to shift more to biofuels once prices comes down. But the testing has been expensive. The Air Force paid about $59 per gallon for 11,000 gallons in one test earlier this year. That prompted Congress to put restrictions on military biofuel evaluations in the name of deficit reduction...
15 Burning Questions (and Answers) for Biofuels in 2013: Policy, finance, technology, feedstocks, markets, prices, and opposition.
(J. Lane, 12/13/12, Biofuelsdigest) ...Policy...1. The future of RFS2 and what the industry needs to get done with the RFS to make it a more effective policy instrument for advanced biofuels. The Digest’s Take. The battle over RFS2′s future has shifted. Opponents now point to surging US production in natural gas and oil – saying, we don’t want to change RFS2, we want to repeal it, it’s not needed: corn ethanol is too damaging to food and oil interests, advanced biofuels are not arriving in sufficient quantities. Industry’s answer is likely going to have to be evidence of growing production – especially of advanced biofuels from non-food feedstocks. “We’re late, but we’re here” is better than “five years away.” If there is significant deployment activity in the US, at least, in 2013 – with the likes of Beta Renewables, POET-DSM, Dupont, INEOS Bio, KiOR, Gevo and/or Butamax and a host of other companies that are working up plans for first commercial projects – well, that certainly would be enough to prevent repeal...
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Up, up and away: aviation biofuels players start building capacity
(J. Lane, 1/10/13, Biofuelsdigest) Great Scott! Look up in the Sky! There hasn’t been a hotter sector in biofuels demand than aviation. Now, flight tests and fuel development has given way to real capacity building. Who’s in the lead to win in this $180 billion sector? Faster than a speeding bullet…more powerful than a locomotive… that’s the growth and momentum in aviation biofuels. First there were the partnerships, then the fuel R&D, then the flight tests, then the offtake agreements. And there was the hope- especially at airlines- that strategic investors and lenders would jump into the financing of the first commercial fuel projects. That was, as the saying goes, then. Now – it’s all about organizing sustainable, affordable feedstock and building capacity. And, airlines providing capital for the first commercial projects — to ensure that capacity building reaches levels in line with the industry’s self-imposed targets: to stabilize carbon emissions from 2020 with carbon-neutral growth; and to a net reduction in carbon emissions of 50% by 2050 compared to 2005. What does carbon-neutral growth mean, exactly, in terms of biofuels capacity building? The airlines aim for an average of 4 percent annual passenger growth (and hope to do better), and will offset 1.5 percent of that growth through more fuel-efficient planes...
Engineered algae seen as fuel source
(UPI, 1/8/13) Engineered bacteria could make fuel from sunlight as a step toward replacing fossil fuels as raw materials for the chemical industry, U.S. researchers say. Chemists at the University of California, Davis, say they have engineered blue-green algae to grow chemical precursors for fuels and plastics. "Most chemical feed stocks come from petroleum and natural gas, and we need other sources," chemistry Professor Shota Atsumi said in UC Davis release Monday. Photosynthesis forms carbon-carbon bonds using carbon dioxide as a raw material for reactions powered by sunlight, and cyanobacteria, also known as "blue-green algae," have been doing it for more than 3 billion years, the researchers said. Using cyanobacteria to grow chemicals does not compete with food needs, in the way that corn is needed for the creation of ethanol, they said...
Obama Administration Extends "Farm To Fly" Biofuels Program.
The Hill (4/16, Colman) reports in its "E2 Wire" blog that on Monday the Federal government extended a program designed to develop biofuels for commercial aircraft by another five year. The Hill notes that "Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced the agreement at a conference outside Washington, D.C." According to the Hill, "Known as 'Farm to Fly,' the effort also involves private airline firms - who cite making the fuel supply chain more efficient as a key benefit - and the Federal Aviation Administration." Meanwhile, LaHood said in a statement, "In his State of the Union Address, President Obama called on us to work together to reduce carbon emissions - developing these alternative jet fuels will do just that, while creating jobs and helping airlines save money on fuel."
The Des Moines (IA) Register (4/22, Doering) reports that the Department of Energy has announced plans to invest over "$10.5 million in two Iowa companies to help spur the development of advanced biofuels." The agency "said it awarded $4.2 million to Frontline Bioenergy in Ames and $6.4 million to BioProcess Algae in Shenandoah to develop pilot-scale biorefineries that would be used to test renewable biofuels for use in cars, trucks, and planes while also meeting military specifications for jets and ships in the American military." The two separate "projects are part of an $18 million investment" by the Department of Energy.
UC Researchers Eye Biofuel From Tobacco Plant.
The Los Angeles Times (4/29, Sahagun) reports researchers are testing a tobacco plant to see if it could be genetically modified to produce "socially acceptable bio-fuels to power airplanes" and other vehicles. Researchers at University of California, Berkeley, say preliminary results are encouraging. The paper says the research, being conducted along with Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the University of Kentucky, "is funded with a three-year $4.8-million grant from" the DOE's Advanced Research Projects Agency.