Novel Intel: Air Force Camelina Flight Test Marks Milestone
Air Force completes first all engine test flight using 100 percent Camelina feedstock. Market for energy feedstocks suitable for processing into “drop-in” aviation biofuels beginning to take shape.
The Air Force conducted the first all engine test flight using 100 percent renewable jet fuel derived from Camelina yesterday, marking another major milestone towards the quest for “drop-in” compatible aviation biofuels.
The Camelina-derived fuel was used in both engines of the A-10 Thunderbolt II jet aircraft at Eglin Air Force Base and was the first flight of an aircraft powered solely on a biomass-derived jet fuel. The pilot described the flight as “boring,” which bodes well for sustainable biomass energy crops like Camelina.
As an oilseed, Camelina seed may be processed into “drop-in” biojet by way of hydroprocessing and is termed “HRJ,” which is a class of fuels derived from either plant oil or animal fat feedstocks. Camelina holds promise as a rotation crop to replace summer fallow on northern wheat farms and potential as a winter rotation crop for soy and corn and is a sustainable, non-food crop that requires fewer inputs than say soy or corn (see Camelina Aviation Biofuels: A Market Opportunity and Renewable Energy Report). In the report, we project that strong aviation demand — due in large part to oil price increases and volatility as well as climate regulation — will drive the market for Camelina feedstock over the next decade.
The Air Force is the largest consumer of jet fuel in the Department of Defense at 2.4 billion gallons per year. The A-10 demonstration flight supports the Air Force’s 2010 Energy Plan goal to be prepared to cost-competitively acquire 50 percent of domestic aviation fuel (approximately 400 million gallons) from an alternative fuel blend by 2016.
Mr. Terry Yonkers, assistant secretary of the Air Force for installations, environment and logistics, noted:
The Air Force recognizes its role as a leader in energy management. This demonstration underscores our commitment to advancing technologies that increase our use of renewable energy and reduce our consumption of imported foreign oil.
Camelina-derived biojet can reduce greenhouse gas emissions for aircraft by a significant margin. The fuel also reduces particulate matter emissions, which are linked to SOx and NOx, also potent gases affecting air quality.
The test flight marks the next phase in the Air Force’s alternative aviation fuel program and represents a milestone in worldwide development of alternative aviation fuels, paving the way for future Air Force HRJ certification flight tests of the F-15 Eagle, F-22 Raptor and C-17 Globemaster III to begin this summer.
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