Based on UOP press release - UOP LLC, a Honeywell (NYSE: HON) company, announced today it will accelerate research and development on renewable energy technology to convert vegetable and algal oils to military jet fuels.
The goal of the $6.7 million project funded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), is to develop and commercialize a process to produce Jet Propellant 8 (JP-8) used by U.S. and NATO militaries.
“The focus of our renewable energy efforts has been to develop technologies that align with today’s standard refinery practices, but allow a broader range of feedstock options,” said Jennifer Holmgren, director of UOP’s Renewable Energy and Chemicals business unit. “We are confident that we have assembled a strong team of experts that will be successful in proving the viability of biofeedstock technologies for JP-8 and other jet fuels, while offering the U.S. military another option for sustainable liquid fuels critical to their programs.”
UOP will work with Honeywell Aerospace, Cargill, Arizona State University, Sandia National Laboratories and Southwest Research Institute on the project, which is expected to be completed by the end of 2008. Fuel produced by the new process is expected to achieve 90 percent energy efficiency for maximum conversion of feed to fuel, reduced waste and reduced production costs. UOP expects the technology will be viable for future use in the production of jet fuel for commercial jets.
Approximately 4.5 billion gallons of JP-8 fuel are used by the U.S. Air Force, U.S. Army and NATO annually. The kerosene-based, high-performance fuel is less flammable and less hazardous than other fuel options, allowing for better safety and combat survivability. In addition to jets, JP-8 is also used to fuel heaters, stoves, tanks, and other vehicles in military service. Commercial airliners use Jet A and Jet A-1, which is also kerosene-based.
UOP, the recognized leader in developing process technology for the refining and petrochemical industries, formed its Renewable Energy & Chemicals business unit in late 2006 to commercialize solutions for production of renewable biofuel energy.
This announcement follows the recent announcement that UOP has developed, along with European energy company Eni, a process to convert vegetable oils and waste into a high-cetane green diesel fuel with low emissions and high efficiency (pevious post). No details were released about this process, but I would expect to follow a similar approach to the green diesel process, using a catalyst, in the appropriate step (the Fluid Catalytic Crackers (FCC)?) in a refinery to convert vegetable oils to JP-8.
An ineresting item in this announcement is that they specifically mentioned algal oils as a feedstock. The military has a large program going on, for national security reasons, to develop alternatives to the petroleum fuels that it currently uses. Maybe this process, through government requirements, will create enough demand for algal oil that it will become a significant feedstock, rather than dependending on the oils from food grains.