Alaska Airlines isn't the first to use biofuel, but it's the first to use it from this source.
As we learned when we visited last fall, Solazyme is doing some interesting things in its South San Francisco lab. Now, our friends over at Translogic put together a video showing the algae-derived diesel being used in a Volkswagen Passat TDI – as well as getting burned by the US Navy.
Advanced, drop-in biofuels seem to be all the rage. Perhaps that's why the United States Departments of Agriculture and Energy, along with the U.S. Navy, have announced the next step in creating a public-private partnership to develop and commercialize them.
On March 18th, an F-22 Raptor took off from Edwards Air Force Base in California. The Raptor hit supersonic speeds on a 50/50 fuel blend of conventional petroleum-based JP-8 (jet propellant 8) and biofuel derived from camelina, a weed-like plant. Jeff Braun, director of the alternative fuels certification division, had this to say of the flight:
BioJet International Ltd. has received a whopping $1.2 billion of financial backing from Equity Partners Fund SPC. The massive amount of capital will allow BioJet, an international supplier of renewable aviation fuels, to fund its biofuel development and launch projects aimed at expanding the use of renewable feedstocks.
Flying from Lanseria Airport in Gauteng to Cape Town, Africa, a distance of about 865 miles, would appear to be no extraordinary feat. That is, unless the passenger aircraft, a Boeing 737, flew the distance while burning nothing but 100-percent synthetic jet fuel. Then the trip would not only be extraordinary, but also a world's first.
Ethanol and biodiesel both have great characteristics for vehicle transport, but what do you use if you want a renewable jet fuel? Biodiesel does not have the extremely low temperature performance for high altitude flight and ethanol is not dense enough and contains only around half the energy content of jet fuel per gallon.