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Air Force OKs biofuel jet fuel mix in aircraft

The Air Force approves a blend of plant-based fuel with jet fuel for the first time, saying performance for pilots will not be affected.

U. S. Air Force/Staff Sgt. Brian Ferguson

The Air Force has approved a blend of jet fuel and plant-based fuels to work with an aircraft for first time.

The certification, announced yesterday, covers the C-17 Globemaster III, a transport aircraft made by Boeing and used for moving troops and cargo.

The Air Force tested a blend of up to 50 percent of biofuel, called hydrotreated renewable jet fuel, and JP-8 jet fuel, and found no degradation in performance for pilots.

The biofuel mix will burn cleaner, reducing the amount of sulfur compounds emitted and will further the military's goal of reducing its use of petroleum-based fuels, the Air Force said. "When blended as we've done, this is a potential drop-in solution for jet fuel for our aircraft, requiring no modification to systems or special handling or monitoring," Jeff Braun, the Air Force's alternative fuel certification office chief, said in a statement.

Because of its buying power and security risks from transporting fuels, the military is a very significant customer to prove out renewable energy products. A base in Afghanistan developed a solar power system to reduce the amount of diesel it uses in generators and the Air Force is also going to try out a waste-to-energy system later this year.

In the commercial world, biofuel company Solayzme this week announced a partnership to develop aviation fuels with Quantas.

Biofuel and chemicals company Gevo, which makes biobutanol, went public this week, one of the few biofuels companies to reach that point in scale. One of the products it intends to make is a "biojet blendstock" made by converting butanol to kerosene, a component of jet fuel.