Biofuel certification process nears starting point

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A key step to starting the certification process for bio-derived jet fuels is nearing completion.

Testing of bio-derived blends of generic synthetic paraffinic kerosene (SPK), called hydrotreated renewable jet (HRJ), has been underway for more than a year and a report about the research findings is expected to be complete by the end of 2009, says Mark Rumizen, FAA certification and qualification team leader for the Commercial Aviation Alternative Fuels Initiative (CAAFI), a consortium of aerospace firms, trade groups and the FAA.

Voluntary standards development organisation ASTM International will review the research report when it considers certifying 50% HRJ blends in 2010, he explains.

CAAFI expects ASTM to publish a fuel specification for 50% HRJ blends next year, paving the way for commercial production and airline use of up to 50% HRJ blends derived from sources such as jatropha, camelina and algae with petroleum-derived jet fuel.

ATSM's HRJ task force is working on the report, which will consist of data from several sources including the US Air Force and Southwest Research Institute, as well as from biofuel demonstration flights performed by Air New Zealand, Continental Airlines and Japan Airlines in December 2008 and January 2009.

The HRJ certification process for 50% blends will begin as ASTM published a specification for non-petroleum-based fuels, D7566, last month.

The specification enables the commercial production of 50% SPK blends derived from the Fischer-Tropsch process and sets the stage for commercial airlines to use up to 50% of such blends with petroleum-derived jet fuel once ASTM modifies the existing specification for aviation turbine fuel, D1655, to recognize fuels made with synthetic components.

ASTM aviation fuels subcommittee vice chairman for emerging fuels George Wilson says he expects D1655 modification to occur by the end of December.

In addition to 50% certification, CAAFI expects 100% SPKs derived from the Fischer-Tropsch process will be certified in 2011, followed in 2013 by the certification of 100% HRJs.