With ambitious long-term energy goals, US Navy is at the forefront of alternative energy use and energy efficiency. Now, the Energy Department’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) has partnered with Cobalt Technologies, the U.S. Navy andShow Me Energy Cooperativein order to create a sustainable, cost-competitive fuel for jet fighters using biomass feedstock such asswitchgrass.

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The switchgrass fuel is the latest project funded by the Energy Department that aims to integrate renewable biofuels into military and civilian aircraft and vehicles in order to reduce emissions. One of the key ingredients to the new jet fuel is switchgrass, which according to NREL will be treated in enzymatic digester reactors to produce fermentable sugars.

NREL will be combining its pretreatment, enzymatic hydrolysis, and fermentation expertise with Cobalt’s promising microorganisms in order to produce the butanol intermediate, said David Sievers, R&D Engineer at NREL. The project will also use technology originating from Cobalt and the Navy in order to turn butanol into jet fuel at the NREL biorefinery pilot plant. It is hoped that the new Cobalt-Navy bio-jet fuel will become a cost competitive alternative to traditional jet fuel,  further reducing the Department of Defense’s dependence on petroleum-based products.

“At NREL, we can take biomass feedstock, convert it to biofuels and scale it up in our pilot plant, in this case converting it to butanol,” NREL Senior Project Leader for Partnership Development Rich Bolin said. “The (test) runs we did last year with Cobalt Technologies producing butanol at our pilot plant were quite successful.”

The project could lead to big gains in jet-fuel manufacturing in the United States and a boost for jobs in rural America. Using biomass rather than petroleum offers the advantages of improved energy security, less price volatility and a smaller impact on the environment, Bolin said.


via Clean Technica

Images: USDAgov and Official U.S. Navy Imagery