The U.S. Department of Defense’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency has awarded The Energy & Environmental Research Center $5 million to develop and demonstrate a new domestic bio-jet fuel with the specifications of JP-8. The 18-month project will produce enough fuel to allow DARPA to demonstrate it in real-world combat scenarios.
The award is part of DARPA’s Biofuel program. According to DoD’s Transformation Website, the goal of the BioFuels program is to develop an affordable alternative production process that will achieve a 60 percent or greater conversion efficiency, by energy content, of crop oil to military aviation fuel (JP-8) and elucidate a path to 90 percent conversions.
Commercial processes do not produce alternative fuels that meet the higher energy density and wide operating temperature range necessary for military aviation uses. Current biodiesel fuels are 25 percent lower in energy density than JP-8 and exhibit unacceptable cold-flow features at the lower extreme of the required JP-8 operating temperature range (minus 50 degrees Fahrenheit).
The EERC says its fuel will meet the military specification for JP-8. Several provisional patent applications have already been filed by EERC for a new chemical process specifically for producing renewable JP-8, which simplifies the traditional process for converting vegetable oil to fuel with low freeze point requirements (at or below 50 degrees Fahrenheit).
“Our whole approach with this project is to develop an affordable new fuel that can be dropped in to replace the current JP-8 fuel,” said Ted Aulich, Senior Research Manager. “This replacement will allow an easy transition from a petroleum-based fuel to a 100% domestic renewable fuel.”