Aviation turbine fuel made from algae passes all tests

Thursday, September 11, 2008, 18:59 by Aviation Correspondent

The jet fuel using algae produced by Solazyme Incorporated, the company based in South San Francisco, California, the United States, has passed all the tests required for aviation turbine fuel.Solazyme, which specialises in making fuel using microbes, claimed in a press release: The worlds first algal-based jet fuel jet fuel has passed 11 tests required for the aviation turbine fuel standard, including its density, flashpoint, viscosity and freezing point. Most importantly, it has the same density  a key characteristic that other alternative fuels, such as those derived from natural gas or coal, lack.

The algal-based alternative jet fuel manufactured by Solazyme had passed tests earlier in 2008 to meet the standards of commercial diesel fuel.

Solazyme said that its algal-derived aviation fuel was analysed by the Southwest Research Institute (SwRI), one of the leading fuel analytical laboratories in the United States.

The press release elaborated: The fuel passed the 11 most challenging specifications needed to meet the ASTM D1655 standard for aviation turbine fuel. The tested areas included the key measurements for density, thermal oxidative stability, flashpoint, freezing point, distillation and viscosity among others. Of the 11 tested parameters, the Solazyme aviation fuel passed the ASTM D1655 requirements for every measurement. Therefore, the Solazyme algae-based aviation kerosene has passed the biggest hurdles needed to successfully develop a commercial and military jet fuel fully consistent with existing engines and infrastructure.

Solazyme Incorporated, started in 2003 by Jonathan Wolfson, its CEO, and Harrison Dillon, president, has raised about $25 million in venture capital, debt and government grants for the companys efforts at making renewable fuels, the press release said.

Solazyme makes the microbial-derived fuels from feedstocks such as woodchips, sugarcane stalks and sawdust that are converted to sugar and eaten by algae. The algae, egged on by the large quantities of sugar, produce more oil than they normally would. The additional oil that the algae produces is refined into either diesel or jet fuel. The process can also be customised to make ingredients for cleaning products or cosmetics, according to Solazyme.

According to official data, 1.6 billion gallons of jet fuel are used every month in the United States alone, contributing considerably to greenhouse-gas emissions.

The European Union (EU) is expected to stipulate that airlines flying into and out of airports in the European Union should join the Emissions Trading System set to start in 2011. And, this has spurred search for environmentally friendly and sustainable alternatives to fossil fuel.

Agencies in the United States such as the Commercial Aviation Alternative Fuels Initiative (CAAFI) and Defence Advanced Research Project Agency (DARPA) as well as the US Air Force are keenly looking for alternatives to fossil fuel.

Solazymes algal-derived aviation fuel, CEO Jonathan Wolfson said in the press release, is the first step towards achieving those alternatives on a broad scale. We are excited to be the first advanced biofuel company to successfully make jet fuel from algal oil that passes the most critical ASTM D1655 (Jet A) standards. Producing a low-carbon jet fuel and putting it through biofuel testing with SwRI further solidifies Solazymes position as a leader in the green fuels space.

Apart from algal-derived aviation fuel, Solazyme produces SoladieselBDTM, a biodiesel, and SoladieselRDTM, a renewable diesel, which has the same chemical properties as petro-diesel, the company said, and claimed that, like the new aviation fuel, both SoladieselTM fuels are compatible with the existing transportation fuel infrastructure.