US jet fuel biorefinery projects receive $100m

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Four companies with biorefinery projects targeting alternative jet fuel production will receive grants totalling up to $100 million from the US Energy Department.

Honeywell subsidiary UOP, algae-based fuel developer Sapphire Energy, chemical producer Elevance Renewable Sciences and biorefineries developer ClearFuels Technology will receive funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 as the federal government seeks to accelerate the construction and operation of biorefinery facilities in the USA.

The projects "will validate refining technologies and help lay the foundation for full commercial-scale development of a biomass industry in the USA", says the Energy Department.

The funding announcement comes as voluntary standards development organisation ASTM International is expected to begin the certification process for bio-derived jet fuels in 2010.

ASTM is also expected to publish a fuel specification for 50% bio-derived blends of generic synthetic paraffinic kerosene, called hydrotreated renewable jet (HRJ), in 2010, paving the way for commercial production and airline use of up to 50% HRJ blends with petroleum-derived jet fuel. The certification of 100% HRJs is expected in 2013.

UOP aims to demonstrate the viability of using cellulosic biomass, such as forest or agricultural residuals, as a feedstock for drop-in jet fuel and diesel fuel. The company will use its $25 million grant to build a demonstration unit at a Tesoro refinery site in Kapolei, Hawaii.

Sapphire Energy, which cultivates algae in ponds to be converted into alternative fuels including jet fuel, was awarded a $50 million grant.

ClearFuels Technology will receive up to $23 million in grant money from the Energy Department to construct a biomass gasifier at synthetic fuels producer Rentech's energy technology centre in Denver. Rentech holds a 25% stake in ClearFuels.

Elevance Renewable Sciences was awarded a $2.5 million grant to fund the preliminary engineering design for a demonstration scale integrated biorefinery to produce chemicals and advanced biofuels, including jet fuels, from renewable oils.