Aviation Fuels

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A Navy plane in flight.
The U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO) recognizes that biofuels are especially needed in the aviation industry, where liquid fuels are still the only viable fuel source. The commercial aviation industry and the military both have goals to increase domestic renewable jet fuel supply. To reach these targets, BETO is working with related agencies, national laboratories, industry stakeholders, and airline partners to develop research and market opportunities for renewable aviation fuels. BETO, specifically, is advancing alternative jet biofuels through research and development in the areas of feedstocks and fuel conversion and scale-up.

In June 2016, the White House’s National Science and Technology Council published the Federal Alternative Jet Fuels Research and Development Strategy outlining the federal government’s plans to lower the cost of alternative jet fuels through coordinated efforts by nine federal agencies, including DOE. The strategy covers all aspects of the development path from feedstocks to conversion technologies to scale-up and fuel testing. BETO supports research on most of this development path, from feedstocks through scale-up. 

Partnerships

BETO routinely collaborates on strategic activities meant to advance renewable jet fuels and develop the aviation market. This includes the following:

  • The Defense Production Act Title III Advanced Drop-In Biofuels Production Program, in partnership with the U.S. Navy and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)
  • Farm to Fly 2.0, a partnership with USDA, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Aviation Administration, and major aviation industry partners including the Commercial Aviation Alternative Fuel Initiative

Funding

Under the Defense Protection Act, DOE is co-funding the construction of three integrated biorefineries that will have the capacity to produce hydrocarbon fuels that meet military specifications for JP-5 (jet fuel used primarily by the U.S. Navy), JP-8 (jet fuel used primarily by the U.S. Air Force), or F-76 (diesel). Over the past 2 years, BETO has contributed $90 million to this effort. The total commitment from this interagency collaboration is $210 million among the three biorefineries: Emerald Biofuels, Fulcrum Bioenergy, and Red Rock Biofuels

BETO has also helped fund a collaboration between Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and LanzaTech to advance a technology that converts ethanol from gas fermentation to drop-in jet fuel through established thermochemical conversion pathways. In September 2016, they announced a significant milestone—they had produced 1,500 gallons of renewable jet fuel from industrial waste gases.

Workshops

In September 2016, BETO hosted the Alternative Aviation Fuel Workshop to advance the understanding of current opportunities to increase the competitiveness of renewable jet fuels. To view related meetings and workshops, visit the Meetings and Workshops web page.

Through these partnerships and activities, BETO is helping to make sustainable, cost-competitive biofuel a reality for the aviation industry.