The Virent company announced the delivery of 100 gallons of its bio-based jet fuel to the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) for testing purposes. Product testing will begin at Wright Patterson Air Force Base to validate Virent’s jet fuel against the standards required for qualification and approval of new aviation turbine fuels.

The jet fuel was produced at a new Virent demonstration plant built to produce drop-in jet and diesel fuels from 100 percent renewable plant sugars. The plant was constructed
at the company’s facility in Madison, Wis., under a $1.5 million award received in 2011 from the Federal Aviation Administration and U.S. Department of Transportation, through the Volpe National Transportation Systems Center.

Virent’s key differentiator in fuels manufacturing is the ability to use a wide variety of feedstocks for a patented catalytic process that can effectively convert conventional feedstocks (beet sugar, sugar cane, corn starch) as well as next generation cellulosic feedstocks (bagasse, corn stover, grasses, sorghum and wood) to fuels. The company claims to be leading the industry in its ability to generate high-value hydrocarbons from a wide variety of plant sugars.

The new plant has the capacity to produce up to 5,000 total gallons of fuel per year. Design, engineering and construction were performed in-house by Virent employees. This is the second operating demonstration plant built by the company. Its Madison facility also houses a 10,000 gallon per year system that is optimized to produce gasoline and aromatic chemicals.

Lourdes Maurice, executive director of the FAA’s Office of Environment and Energy said, “We are excited that Virent is able to effectively utilize FAA funding to deliver these gallons for testing. The fuel will be used with our partners in the industry and government to progress testing of novel alternative jet fuels that can help meet FAA’s environment and energy goals under the Next Generation Air Transportation System.”

The fuel standards for testing the jet fuel are established by the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM). The validation plan includes fit-for-purpose, fuel system and combustor rig testing.

Tim Edwards, Ph.D., of the AFRL’s Fuels and Energy Branch said, “AFRL is looking forward to working with Virent and the FAA to evaluate the performance of this fuel. This larger sample will help generate the performance data needed to advance the technology toward engine and flight testing.”

“The successful operation of our new distillate demonstration plant and the validation of Virent’s plant-based jet fuel will advance our efforts to achieve ASTM-certified jet fuel and to prepare for commercial scaling,” said Virent Co-Founder and Chief Technology Officer Randy Cortright, Ph.D. “In addition, we would like to thank the FAA, AFRL, and Royal Dutch Shell for participating on the project team and acting in advisory roles.”