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Boeing, USDA, FAA Extend Aviation Biofuels Program

The USDA has extended for five years its agreement to work with the FAA and commercial aviation partners, including Boeing and industry trade group Airlines for America, to help develop a viable biofuel for the aviation industry.

The new agreement follows the 2010-2012 Farm to Fly initiative, a collaboration between USDA, Airlines for America and Boeing that builds upon the work of USDA’s Regional Biomass Research Centers, which are working with industry partners to produce energy-producing feedstocks within different regions of the US.

The renewed agreement focuses on future goals: designating personnel, evaluating current and potential feedstock types and systems, developing multiple feedstock supply chains, developing state and local public-private teams, communicating results, and issuing periodic reports.

In October, 2010 USDA and the FAA jointly announced a three-year agreement to develop aviation fuel from forest and crop residues and other “green” feedstocks in order to reduce dependence on foreign oil. Under this partnership, the agencies have combined their experience in research, policy analysis and air transportation to explore the different kinds of feedstocks that could be processed by bio-refineries to produce jet fuels.

The federal government and its partners hope to support the annual production of 1 billion gallons of drop in aviation biofuel by 2018, USDA says.

Earlier this week, biofuels manufacturer Joule announced it has converted waste CO2 into gasoline and jet fuel components. The company says this technology will allow it to expand its Sunflow product line — which uses solar energy to convert industrial waste CO2 into fuels — and help address global demand for hydrocarbon fuel replacements.

United Airlines this month announced a host of fuel-savings initiatives, including using biofuels, intended to help the company reach its goal to save 85 million gallons of fuel in 2013.

In 2011, United operated the first US passenger biofuel flight powered with a mixture of renewable algae-derived jet fuel and conventional jet fuel, and has signed letters of intent to negotiate the purchase of more than 50 million gallons of sustainable biofuels.

Last summer, United Airlines joined the Sustainable Aviation Fuel Users Group, an industry working group that aims to accelerate the development and commercialization of aviation biofuels. The group’s members, including AirFrance, British Airways and Boeing, represent around 32 percent of commercial aviation fuel demand, United says.

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