NREL and Navy to Make Jet Fuel from Switchgrass

The U.S. Navy is teaming up with the NREL and others in order to find a more economical way to create jet fuel in large quantities from a renewable source, such as switchgrass.

The Energy Department’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) is partnering with the U.S. Navy, Cobalt Technologies, and Show Me Energy Cooperative in order to showcase how renewable biomass sources, like switchgrass, can be used to make large volumes of biofuel in a more economical way than present practices.

“This can be an important step in the efforts to continue to displace petroleum by using biomass resources,” NREL Manager for Bioprocess Integration R&D Dan Schell said. “We’re converting biomass into sugars for subsequent conversion to butanol and then to JP5 jet fuel.”

In order to make the fuel from switchgrass, the NREL will be using its enzymatic hydrolysis, fermentation, and pretreatment with Cobalt’s microorganisms to create the butanol. Then the Navy and Cobalt will use their technology to turn butanol into jet fuel at NREL’s biorefinery pilot plant where the Navy will also use their unique catalyst systems.

Upon completion, the project could lead to huge gains in jet-fuel manufacturing, employment opportunities, and a higher level of energy security.

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