Rendered Fats Play Key Role in Aviation Fuel

By Tina Caparella


Biodiesel has been used in various blends in on- and off-road vehicles for a number of years now. Although a few glitches have appeared at times, the alternative fuel has performed very well. When the aviation industry began evaluating the use of biodiesel and biofuels in jet fuel, understandably more precautions and testing had to take place. A glitch caused by biofuels in an airplane at 30,000 feet going 500 miles per hour could be catastrophic. Well it appears patience has paid off.

In mid-July, Lufthansa launched a six-month biofuel trial on four daily flights between Hamburg and Frankfurt, Germany. The Airbus A321 will run one of its engines on a 50/50 mix of regular jet fuel and biosynthetic kerosene produced by Neste Oil, a Finnish oil company, and derived from pure biomass consisting of animal fats, jatropha, and camelina. Approved by ASTM International, biokerosene has similar properties to those of conventional kerosene so it can be used for all aircraft types without any need for modifications to the aircraft or its engines. During the test period, the use of biofuel will reduce carbon dioxide emissions by up to 1,500 metric tons. Lufthansa suppliers must provide proof of the sustainability of their processes and meet the criteria stipulated by the European Parliament and European Council in the Renewable Energy Directive.

Lufthansa puts the total costs of conducting the biofuel project at about 6.6 million euros. The German Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology has awarded 2.5 million euros in funding for the project, which is part of a larger project known as FAIR, or Future Aircraft Research, set up to examine other issues besides the compatibility of biofuels, including new propulsion and aircraft concepts and other fuels such as liquefied natural gas.

In September, KLM Royal Dutch Airlines will launch more than 200 flights between Amsterdam, the Netherlands, and Paris, France, that will also operate on a mixture of conventional jet fuel and biokerosene. The company first began testing the renewable fuel made from camelina in November 2009, but KLM has stated they are open to using different raw materials for the end product, as long as it meets a range of sustainability criteria, including substantial reductions in carbon dioxide emissions and minimum negative impact on biodiversity and food supply. All biofuels used by KLM also have to meet precisely the same technical specifications as kerosene and must not require any adjustments to aircraft engines or infrastructure.

The alternative fuel KLM will be using in their planes is produced by U.S.-based Dynamic Fuels, a joint venture between Syntroleum Corporation and Tyson Foods, Inc., using used cooking oil and animal fats as a feedstock. In June, KLM used a 50/50 blend of conventional jet fuel and renewable jet fuel in both engines of a Boeing 737-800 aircraft that carried 171 passengers from Amsterdam to Paris as a preview of the upcoming flights.

The fuel will be supplied by SkyNRG, a consortium launched by KLM and North Sea Group and Spring Associations in 2009. SkyNRG is actively developing a sustainable production chain for aviation biofuels and does not commit to one single feedstock or technology. To make the best alternative fuel selection, SkyNRG is advised by an independent sustainability board.

SkyNRG is also supplying its sustainable jet fuel to Thomson Airways. The United Kingdom (UK)-based airline will operate one of its weekly flights from Birmingham Airport to Palma on the biofuel beginning in September, and is calling on the British government to consider incentives to using and investing in sustainable aviation fuels.

“We urge UK and EU [European Union] governments to use this opportunity to review the legislation and remove barriers around sustainable biofuels so that other airlines can follow our lead,” said Chris Browne, Thomson Airways’ managing director.

Paving the way for using biofuels as an alternative jet fuel is a new ASTM International aviation fuel standard that now specifies bioderived components. Through the new provisions included in ASTM D7566-11, Specification for Aviation Turbine Fuel Containing Synthesized Hydrocarbons, approved July 1, 2011, up to 50 percent bioderived synthetic blending components can be added to conventional jet fuel. These renewable fuel components, called hydroprocessed esters and fatty acids (HEFA), are identical to hydrocarbons found in jet fuel but come from vegetable oil-containing feedstocks such as algae, camelina, or jatropha, or from animal fats. The standard already has criteria for fuel produced from coal, natural gas, or biomass using Fischer-Tropsch synthesis.

The subcommittee on Aviation Fuels in ASTM International Committee D02 on Petroleum Products and Lubricants, which consists of more than 2,000 members representing 66 countries, revised the D7566 standard. Mark Rumizen, who helped lead the work to revise the specification, heads the certification-qualification group for the Commercial Aviation Alternative Fuels Initiative (CAAFI), a coalition that seeks to enhance sustainability for aviation by promoting the use of alternative jet fuels.

“The revision of D7566 reflects an industry cooperative effort to accomplish this task,” said Rumizen. “Because of the great emphasis on safety when you’re dealing with aviation fuel, the passage of this ballot required a collaborative and cooperative effort between the members of the aviation fuels community.” Representatives from companies across the fuel supply chain plus HEFA fuel producers, aircraft and engine manufacturers, and regulatory agencies were involved in the specification development and revision.

Rob Midgley, technology manager, aviation fuels, for Shell Aviation, Cheshire, Great Britain, and a D02 member, noted, “The approval of HEFA as a blending component in jet fuel builds on the great efforts expended by ASTM on approving Fischer-Tropsch components in 2009 and shows that, as a consensus group, ASTM can make great strides whilst maintaining the safety levels demanded by the aviation sector.”

Aviation fuel producers, distributors, airport fuel farms, and airlines in the global aviation community will use the standard to verify fuel quality and performance by testing to the D7566 specification requirements. With this new edition, D7566 includes new, specific requirements for the bioderived synthetic fuel component such as thermal stability, distillation control, and trace material amounts.

After blending with conventional jet fuel, new lubricity, distillation, and composition requirements in D7566 must also be met. As a result, the blended jet fuel used in the airplane is essentially identical to conventional jet fuel and does not differ in performance or operability, noted Rumizen.

The revised specification references numerous other ASTM standards, including tests that measure various properties of fuel. D7566 fuels also meet the requirements of ASTM D1655, Specification for Aviation Turbine Fuels, which has been used by the aviation community for decades for the quality control and distribution of conventional aviation turbine fuel. This allows these new D7566 fuels to be seamlessly integrated into the distribution infrastructure and onto certificated aircraft as D1655 fuels.

Canada Moves Forward with Biodiesel Mandate

Canadian diesel fuel and heating oil must now contain a two percent renewable content as the government moved forward with its July 1, 2011, start date. The effective date was announced earlier this year as part of Canada’s Renewable Fuels Strategy following a five percent renewal content requirement in gasoline that took effect December 15, 2010. (See “Biofuels Bulletin,” April 2011 Render.)

The government carefully considered all comments received and is balancing possible competitiveness impacts on eastern refiners with the need to minimize delays to support the Canadian biodiesel industry in moving forward. A permanent exemption is being provided for renewable content in diesel fuel and heating distillate oil sold in Newfoundland and Labrador to address the logistical challenges of blending biodiesel in this region. Temporary exemptions for Quebec and all Atlantic provinces are being provided until December 31, 2012, to allow eastern refiners time to install biodiesel blending infrastructure.

The Canadian Renewable Fuels Association lauded the final release of the national two percent biodiesel mandate as good news for consumers, farmers, and energy diversity in Canada. On the flip side, the Canadian Trucking Alliance, a federation of the provincial trucking associations in Canada that represents over 4,500 trucking companies, has been critical of the proposed mandate saying it provides no consumer protection from higher fuel costs or damage to engines and offers virtually no environmental benefit.

Dubai McDonald’s, Fuel Producer Partner Up

Dubai FDI, the foreign investment promotion arm of the Department of Economic Development, Government of Dubai, has brought together Dubai-based newly established Neutral Fuels, LLC, and McDonald’s UAE, in a partnership to produce biodiesel from used vegetable oil.

Under a long-term contract with Neutral Fuels, used vegetable oil will be collected from McDonald’s outlets across the United Arab Emirates, and then converted into biodiesel for use in McDonald’s logistics fleet. According to the company, Neutral Fuels, founded in 2006, is the first commercial producer of biodiesel in the Middle East.

Operating in the country since 1994, McDonald’s UAE has 90 restaurants in the country.

EPA Proposes Renewable Fuel Volumes for Next Two Years

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has proposed the 2012 percentage standards for four fuel categories that are part of the agency’s Renewable Fuel Standard program.

The Energy Independence and Security Act (EISA) of 2007 established the annual renewable fuel volume targets, which steadily increase to an overall level of 36 billion gallons in 2022. To achieve these volumes, EPA calculates a percentage-based standard for the following year. Based on the standard, each refiner, importer, and non-oxygenate blender of gasoline or diesel determines the minimum volume of renewable fuel that it must ensure is used in its transportation fuel.

The proposed 2012 overall volume for biomass-based diesel, which biodiesel makes up nearly all production, is one billion gallons, up from 800 million gallons in 2011. For advanced biofuels, EPA is proposing a 2012 volume of two billion gallons, and cellulosic biofuels’ proposed volume for next year is 3.45 to 12.9 million gallons. EPA is also proposing a total renewable fuels volume of 15.2 billion gallons for 2012. Because biodiesel also qualifies as an advanced biofuel, it is also eligible to exceed the biomass-based diesel targets and help meet advanced biofuels requirements under the program.

In addition, EPA is proposing a volume requirement of 1.28 billion gallons for biomass-based diesel for 2013. EISA specifies a one billion gallon minimum volume requirement for that category for 2013 and beyond, but enables EPA to increase the volume requirement after consideration of a variety of environmental, market, and energy-related factors.

Comments are due to EPA by August 11, 2011.

Rhode Island Requires Recycling of Waste Cooking Oil

Legislation has been passed by Rhode Island’s General Assembly that will require all waste cooking oil generated by commercial operations, such as restaurants, to be recycled beginning January 2012.

Signed into law in mid-July by Governor Lincoln Chafee are companion bills H5203 and S0185 establishing the Used Cooking Oil Recycling Act that requires used cooking oil generators to maintain receptacles for the collection of the used oil that, beginning next year, cannot be disposed of in any other way than recycling.

A group of middle school students in Westerly, RI, are credited for encouraging legislators to sponsor the bills. Last year, the students convinced municipal officials to install a collection drum at the town transfer station to collect used cooking oil. With the help of two local companies, the oil was converted to biodiesel. With 90 restaurants participating in the program, the students were able to donate 6,600 gallons of biofuel for home heating, the equivalent of $16,500, to a number of local charities.

The bill was originally written to require the waste cooking oil be recycled into biodiesel. The language was modified after Baker Commodities informed legislators its Warwick, RI, facility collects used cooking oil and sends it to a processing facility in Billerica, MA, for other uses such as an additive for livestock feed, as a lubricant, and for biodiesel.

Isuzu Trucks Support Blend

Isuzu Commercial Trucks of America, Inc., has confirmed that all of its new 2011 and forward model year diesel engines, including its four popular N-Series truck models as well as the new Isuzu Reach commercial van, are compatible with use of up to 20 percent biodiesel (B20) blends. Isuzu Commercial Truck is the first Asian manufacturer to approve B20 for U.S. market spec engines.

According to company Retail Marketing Manager Brian Tabel, Isuzu’s support is the result of three key factors: growing consumer demand for the fuel, an extensive and cooperative research project on B20 blends by Isuzu engineers in the United States and Japan, and improved biodiesel fuel quality and industry support under various specifications.

Iowa Passes Biodiesel Bill

Iowa Governor Terry Brandstad signed Senate File 531 in late May requiring that biodiesel blends of at least six percent but not higher than 20 percent conform to ASTM International specification D7467. The bill also extends the state’s biodiesel retailer credit at two cents per gallon for two percent biodiesel next year and 4.5 cents per gallon for five percent biodiesel from 2012 through 2017.

Through the end of 2011, retailers whose diesel sales consist of at least 50 percent biodiesel blends containing a minimum two percent biodiesel are eligible for a three cent per gallon tax credit on each gallon of biodiesel sold.

The legislation adds a biodiesel producer incentive of three cents per gallon in 2012, 2.5 cents per gallon in 2013, and two cents per gallon in 2014 for the first 25 million gallons per facility.

As part of the new law, the state will provide $3 million per year to the Renewable Fuels Infrastructure Board, which will also afford the Iowa Biodiesel Board representation on the Renewable Fuels Infrastructure Board.

REG Purchases SoyMor Plant

Renewable Energy Group (REG) has purchased all the Albert Lea, MN, assets of SoyMor Biodiesel, LLC, including its 30 million gallon per year biodiesel plant idle since 2008, and the soy lecithin facility assets of SoyMor Corporation in exchange for common stock and the assumption of certain liabilities. The purchase brings REG’s owned/operated production capacity to more than 210 million gallons, making the company the largest biodiesel producer in the United States.

REG has already begun the hiring process to fill more than 20 full-time jobs including administrative positions, biodiesel plant operators, and load-out staff.

Vermont Heating Oil to Contain Biodiesel

In late May, Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin signed the Vermont Energy Act of 2011, which furthers the state’s efforts to promote a green economy and energy independence. The broad-based energy legislation establishes low sulfur and biodiesel requirements for all heating oil sold in Vermont, timed to match implementation of similar legislation in surrounding states.

According to the National Biodiesel Board, the legislation requires all heating oil sold in the state to contain a three percent biodiesel blend beginning July 2012, increasing to seven percent by 2016. Vermont is the ninth state in the country to pass a statewide biodiesel requirement.


Biofuels Bulletin – August 2011 RENDER | back