WSU led Bio-Jet fuel project officially gets off the ground

Jul 12, 2010

A major Washington State University effort to develop aviation bio-fuel is underway with the announcement of a strategic initiative called the "Sustainable Aviation Fuels Northwest" project; the first of its kind in the U.S. In partnership with Alaska Airlines, Boeing, the Port of Seattle, The Port of Portland, and Spokane International Airport, the project will look at biomass options within a four-state region as possible sources for creating renewable jet fuel.

"This really is an exciting development from both the economic impact to the Northwest, but also to the advancement of clean technologies world-wide," said John Gardner, Vice President of Economic Development and Global Engagement at WSU.

Washington State University is recognized as one of the leading institutions in the world for its research and discovery work in bio-fuels.

"WSU scientists are already working on overcoming the obstacles standing in the way of efficiently using biomass to make bio-aviation fuel," said Ralph Cavalieri, director of WSU's Agricultural Research Center.

For example, Professor Norman G. Lewis is working on how best to break down the lignin in woody biomass - such as forest byproducts - to make it more easily convertible to fuel. Researcher Shulin Chen's lab is focusing on developing energy-rich algae, the technology to grow them all year, and a way to convert them into fuel and other products. Plant pathologist Scott Hulbert is working on making oilseeds such as camelina and canola viable , while WSU faculty at the Biological Sciences and Engineering Laboratory (BSEL) at WSU Tri-Cities and Pullman are collaborating with Pacific Northwest Laboratories on improved methods of catalytic conversion to liquid fuels.

"Washington State University is uniquely poised to tackle this project," said Gardner. "It's critical that understanding and policy keep pace with the science and technology as we shape this next era of bio-fuels that we are convinced will be sustainable."

Because biomass sources absorb carbon dioxide while growing and can have higher energy content than fossil-based fuel, their increased efficiency and use as aviation could potentially save millions of tons of aviation greenhouse gas emissions.

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