Thursday, May 26, 2011

Fueling Aviation with Biomass and Other Renewable Feedstocks

More: A 100 page PDF roadmap to aviation biofuels from CSIRO for Australia & New Zealand

A new report from Sustainable Aviation Fuels Northwest touts the ability of the US Northwest region to supply significant quantities of feedstock for sustainable aviation fuels -- via multiple methods of synthesis. PDF Executive Summary of Report
Noting that no single feedstock or technology pathway is likely to provide sustainable aviation fuel at the scale or speed needed to achieve industry goals, the report focuses on a portfolio of options, including different conversion technologies and sources of potentially sustainable biomass, including oilseeds, forest residues, solid waste, and algae.

...SAFN focused on two primary conversion technologies for use with the four feedstocks:

Hydroprocessing. Established hydroprocessing technologies to produce aviation fuels from natural oils. ASTM approval for an aviation fuel using up to a 50% biofuel blend is anticipated later this year. This provides a near-term opportunity to create Northwest supply chains for sustainable aviation fuels utilizing oils from oilseed crops such as camelina, as well as algae and biomass.

Lignocellulosic biomass processing. Emerging technologies that use heat, chemicals and microorganisms to process woody biomass and cellulose into fuels and chemicals. This opens the way to using forest and agricultural residue streams, as well as significant portions of municipal and industrial solid waste. One technology has received ASTM approval and others are in cue. A report chapter provides an overview of emerging technologies and ways to site demonstration facilities in the Northwest.

Full SAFN PDF report download 3.7 MB

While the above report focuses on the US Pacific Northwest, in reality other parts of the world are even more prolific producers of biomass, algae, oilseeds, or solid wastes. The tropics are a particularly promising area for feedstock production given the year-round growing climate and abundant sunlight.

As biomass to fuels technology improves and becomes more economical, expect to see and increasing number of wealthy temperate zone nations investing in bioplantations in the tropical zone. As for the politically correct connotations of "neocolonialism" which may accompany such investment in more primitive and impoverished third world nations -- it is best to get away from such blockheaded and reactionary obstacles to clear thinking.

Biofuels feedstock production may be the best fit for a sustainable and appropriate industry that the tropical third world has ever known.

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