MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif., 21 March, 2012. The Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division (NAWCWD), China Lake announced a contract award to Albemarle Corp. to complete its first biojet fuel production run based on bio n-butanol provided by Cobalt Technologies. For this production run, Albemarle will use NAWCWD technologies to process Cobalt's bio n-butanol into renewable jet fuel at its Baton Rouge, La. processing facility.
Funded by the NAWCWD, this initial manufacturing contract by Albemarle started in February 2012. Upon completion, the resulting jet fuel will be tested by the U.S. Naval Air Warfare Center - Aircraft Division (NAWCAD) as a continuing process for military certification through the Department of Defense. Once this testing is completed larger production runs will be undertaken to continue with flight testing.
Cobalt converts non-food feedstock, like woody biomass, into renewable butanol for both chemicals and fuels, including jet fuel. The combined science team from Cobalt and the NAWCWD focused on scaling and optimizing the dehydration chemistry for the conversion of bio n-butanol to 1-butene, followed by oligomerization of the biobutene into jet fuel, based on a process developed at NAWCWD in China Lake, CA. Once the team completed its initial research, the search for a large-scale processing partner began, which resulted in the awarding of a contract to Albemarle.
This initial production run is the first milestone under the Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA) signed between NAWCWD and Cobalt in 2010 to develop technology for the conversion of bio n-butanol into full performance jet and diesel fuels. This CRADA was made possible by the U.S. Federal Technology Transfer Act of 1986, which allows private organizations to access U.S. Federal laboratories.
The development of cost-effective and sustainable sources of fuel for military use is a high priority for the U.S. Navy, which is aiming to cut the use of foreign-based fossil fuels in half by 2020. This summer, the Navy is planning on using the recent purchase of 450,000 gallons of biofuel for the Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) maritime exercise as part of the Great Green Fleet demonstration, a carrier strike group composed of nuclear ships, hybrid electric ships running biofuels and aircraft flying on biofuels. Additionally, by 2016 the Great Green Fleet will be fully deployed using 50/50 blends of biofuels for ships and aircraft.