International event to discuss biobased jet fuel

By Jerry W. Kram
Solena Group, a Washington, D.C.-based company developing a commercial-scale biobased jet fuel production plant, will be discussing synthetic aviation fuel at the ASTM International Aviation Subcommittee meeting in Warsaw, Poland, on June 3-5.

Among other topics, the meeting will include updates on proposals for aviation fuels produced from the Fischer-Tropsch process and a review of a fully synthetic aviation fuel produced by South Africa-based Sasol for the Johannesburg International Airport. In early April, the company became the first in the world to receive international approval for its 100 percent synthetic jet fuel produced by its proprietary coal-to-liquids process. The approval, which was sanctioned by global aviation fuel specification authorities, allows the company's fully synthetic fuel to be used in commercial airliners. Sasol claims the engine-out emissions of its jet fuel are lower than those from crude-oil-based jet fuel due to its limited sulfur content.

Solena intends to build its biobased jet fuel facility in Gilroy, Calif. The company is in the permitting and engineering phase of development, and the plant is scheduled to be operational in 2011. It will produce 17 MMgy of syngas generated from municipal, agricultural and forestry waste provided by Norcal Waste Systems Inc., one of California's largest municipal waste and biomass collectors.

The Solena facility will be developed, designed, built, owned and operated by several corporations, including Solena and Rentech Inc., a coal-to-liquid production company that will use the biobased syngas as a replacement for syngas generated from coal or natural gas. Financing for the $250 million plant is being arranged in London. Solena's production process incorporates a high-temperature gasification reactor powered by a plasma heating system. The biobased syngas is then cooled, cleaned and funneled through Rentech's Fischer Tropsch technology into equipment that converts it to clean-diesel liquid fuel, which is then upgraded to jet fuel. The fuel can withstand temperatures down to 50 degrees below zero, according to Robert Do, chief executive officer of Solena.