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Published on July 23rd, 2009 | by Andrew Williams

17

New Biofuel Could Lead to 100% Clean Flights

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Earlier this month, a team of scientists at the University of North Dakota’s Energy and Environmental Research Center (EERC) successfully tested a new biofuel based on a mixture of canola and soybean oils, and claim it may be the key to zero emission aviation .

The new super-biofuel, known as Jet Propellant-8 (JP-8) was used to launch a rocket above the Mojave Desert, where it approached the speed of sound and reached an altitude of 20,000 feet – a major leap forward in biofuel-powered flight.

Speaking about the launch Carsten Heide, associate director for the EERC said, “We demonstrated that this fuel is a flying fuel, and is 100% renewable and burns clean. It would open up the possibility to run 100% renewable, clean planes. You can see in the picture how clean it burns.”

The rocket was built by Flometrics, Inc., a product engineering company specializing in fluid dynamics and thermodynamics based in San Diego, California.

The 100% natural fuel exhibits all the characteristics of existing petroleum-based jet fuels, and crucially has the same freezing point – meaning it won’t turn into gel in mid-flight causing airplanes to literally fall out of the sky!

The Dakota project is still in the test phase and there is no news yet about the projected costs of mass production. However, the EERC has plans to build a plant capable of producing up to three million gallons per year.

Image Credit – EERC




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About the Author

is a writer and freelance journalist specialising in sustainability and green issues. He lives in Cardiff, Wales.



  • MichaelBryant

    wow the same freezing point

  • MichaelBryant

    wow the same freezing point

  • http://bustedkeys.com Busted Keys

    running off the article title, it’s like saying ‘yay, we’ve got better biofueled cars but that still doesn’t help the situation with traffic.’ i hate cars and everything else that’s associated with it–insurance, parking meters, valet, parking structures, fueling costs, street parking limitations (and their poorly instructed signs), classism, and most importantly separation from human interaction.

  • http://bustedkeys.com Busted Keys

    running off the article title, it’s like saying ‘yay, we’ve got better biofueled cars but that still doesn’t help the situation with traffic.’ i hate cars and everything else that’s associated with it–insurance, parking meters, valet, parking structures, fueling costs, street parking limitations (and their poorly instructed signs), classism, and most importantly separation from human interaction.

  • ChuckL

    Interesting article. I did see one possible problem though, and that is the name of the fuel. The designation “JP-8″ has been used by the U.S.A.F. for its jet fuel for quite some time now. This could create quite some confusion. Might I suggest that a anew name be found for this new fuel compound?

  • ChuckL

    Interesting article. I did see one possible problem though, and that is the name of the fuel. The designation “JP-8″ has been used by the U.S.A.F. for its jet fuel for quite some time now. This could create quite some confusion. Might I suggest that a anew name be found for this new fuel compound?

  • Mark Hazell

    The biggest problem I see with this is the simple fact that producing enough soy bean and canola oil to replace standard jet fuel would cause the cost of food to sky rocket, and it would also put increased pressure on the already troubling tendency to cut down rain forests that we see in Brazil. From my point of view these are deal killers.

  • Mark Hazell

    The biggest problem I see with this is the simple fact that producing enough soy bean and canola oil to replace standard jet fuel would cause the cost of food to sky rocket, and it would also put increased pressure on the already troubling tendency to cut down rain forests that we see in Brazil. From my point of view these are deal killers.

  • http://crackerboy.us Bill Webb

    It may be clean (but still produce CO2) and 100% renewable, but I’d like to know how clean the production of the fuel is — how much chemical fertilizer (derived from petroleum) is required, how much energy used before an ounce of airplane is moved down a runway?

    What is the real carbon and pollution footprint, and how much devastation of the environment will be necessary to grow the millions of tons of canola and soybeans needed to keep the aviation fleet aloft? How much water will be needed?

    We need to look at net production costs in terms of all environmental issues, not just whether or not it burns clean. I’m not impressed yet.

  • http://crackerboy.us Bill Webb

    It may be clean (but still produce CO2) and 100% renewable, but I’d like to know how clean the production of the fuel is — how much chemical fertilizer (derived from petroleum) is required, how much energy used before an ounce of airplane is moved down a runway?

    What is the real carbon and pollution footprint, and how much devastation of the environment will be necessary to grow the millions of tons of canola and soybeans needed to keep the aviation fleet aloft? How much water will be needed?

    We need to look at net production costs in terms of all environmental issues, not just whether or not it burns clean. I’m not impressed yet.

  • Roboc

    >based on a mixture of canola and soybean oils

    So where will the land be found to grow enough beans to provide enough fuel for the ever expanding aviation industry? In the last few years we have seen food prices rise and some crops become scarce. The effects of climate change, and the end of oil, are set to make this situation worse in the coming years. Biofuels are a desperate attempt to maintain ‘business as usual’ when changes in behaviour are what is really required.

  • Roboc

    >based on a mixture of canola and soybean oils

    So where will the land be found to grow enough beans to provide enough fuel for the ever expanding aviation industry? In the last few years we have seen food prices rise and some crops become scarce. The effects of climate change, and the end of oil, are set to make this situation worse in the coming years. Biofuels are a desperate attempt to maintain ‘business as usual’ when changes in behaviour are what is really required.

  • jp

    Renewable jet fuel, sure. But I see two possible problems thoug. First, what acreage would be needed to produce enough biofuel to fly all the planes around the world? Biofuel might very well come from things that grow, and thus be technically “renewable”, but the land needed to grow biofuel is still a limited resource.

    Second, to grow enough corn etc. to produce all the biofuel needed, farmers need gas, as well as pesticides and fertilizer made out of oil. So, you’ve got to be pretty shortsighted to believe biofuel is renewable…

  • jp

    Renewable jet fuel, sure. But I see two possible problems thoug. First, what acreage would be needed to produce enough biofuel to fly all the planes around the world? Biofuel might very well come from things that grow, and thus be technically “renewable”, but the land needed to grow biofuel is still a limited resource.

    Second, to grow enough corn etc. to produce all the biofuel needed, farmers need gas, as well as pesticides and fertilizer made out of oil. So, you’ve got to be pretty shortsighted to believe biofuel is renewable…

  • A M Tottenham

    I would reiterate Bill Webb’s comments, adding only that by cycling through plants the CO2 would quickly return the Oxygen to our atmosphere before recapturing it for Cellular Respiration – unlike the burning of fossil fuels whose Carbon seizes Oxygen out of our atmosphere during combustion to form new CO2. A few starter questions that I would like answers to are:

    1) How many hectares would be needed to produce 1 million gals?

    2) Can the resultant biomass/fibre & protein & mineral rich cake remaining after oil expression be used for herbivore feed? and if so how many tonnes would be produced and how many cattle could be fed from this over a period of 1 year? Could this be made into a total concentrate or would it need to be supplemented with a forage?

    3) Could the resultant Biomass be used directly in a burner for Heat production?

  • A M Tottenham

    I would reiterate Bill Webb’s comments, adding only that by cycling through plants the CO2 would quickly return the Oxygen to our atmosphere before recapturing it for Cellular Respiration – unlike the burning of fossil fuels whose Carbon seizes Oxygen out of our atmosphere during combustion to form new CO2. A few starter questions that I would like answers to are:

    1) How many hectares would be needed to produce 1 million gals?

    2) Can the resultant biomass/fibre & protein & mineral rich cake remaining after oil expression be used for herbivore feed? and if so how many tonnes would be produced and how many cattle could be fed from this over a period of 1 year? Could this be made into a total concentrate or would it need to be supplemented with a forage?

    3) Could the resultant Biomass be used directly in a burner for Heat production?

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