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Vertimass awarded up to US$1.4 million to optimize renewable jet fuel pathway

Biomass conversion technology developers Vertimass LLC has announced that Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO) within the US Department of Energy's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) will receive a cost-shared award of up to US$1.4 million to optimize jet fuel production.

US dollars

Biomass conversion technology developers Vertimass LLC has announced that Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO) within the US Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) will receive a cost-shared award of up to US$1.4 million to optimize jet fuel production. Vertimass is joined by a strong team comprised of the University of Dayton Research Institute (UDRI), Sandia National Laboratory (SNL), TechnipFMC, and the University of California, Riverside (UCR).

Announced by the US Department of Energy (DOE) in October 2019, the cooperative agreement would aid Vertimass in its mission to commercialize “green” catalyst technology that converts ethanol into a valuable renewable jet fuel compatible with the current jet fuel infrastructure. The technology is expected to allow expansion of the liquid biofuels market beyond current constraints.

Existing US ethanol production plants currently have the capacity to produce approximately 16 billion (US) gallons (≈ 60.56 billion litres) per year, a level that saturates current use as 10 percent blends with gasoline. However, the new Vertimass catalyst breaks that barrier by producing a hydrocarbon that can be blended at much higher levels.

In addition, while ethanol has been traditionally considered too low in energy density for use as jet fuel, the Vertimass catalyst can overcome that issue.  This new fuel could also be used to power heavy-duty diesel-powered vehicles for which ethanol is not ideally suited.

Thus, the product would expand opportunities to use more ethanol from corn in the US, cane sugar in Brazil, and cellulosic biomass worldwide. Initial tests indicate the Vertimass fuels (Vertifuels) are compatible for blending with gasoline, diesel, and jet fuels with no engine modifications, but further tests are underway for ASTM certification.

Powerful project consortium

Coupling an exclusive worldwide license to catalyst technology patented by Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) with significant developments by Vertimass provides a powerful platform that can open up the jet fuel market for ethanol. The project focuses on maximizing specific hydrocarbon products in the jet fuel range from ethanol and other alcohols that provide high energy density desired for jet fuel while reducing particulate emissions associated with conventional fossil-derived jet fuels.

Vertimass is joined in this project by a strong team comprised of the University of Dayton Research Institute (UDRI), Sandia National Laboratory (SNL), TechnipFMC, and the University of California, Riverside (UCR).

We are excited to advance this unique technology for producing renewable jet fuel. This technology will provide corn, sugarcane, and future cellulosic ethanol producers the opportunity to produce high-value jet fuel that complement the ability of our technology to produce gasoline, diesel, and building block chemicals (BTEX). Developing technology to reduce particulate emissions while increasing fuel energy density and optimizing other key fit-for-purpose attributes can be invaluable in reducing greenhouse gas emissions to mitigate global climate change, said Dr. John Hannon, chief operating officer of Vertimass.

Benefits of the catalytic process include:

  • Single-step conversion of ethanol into hydrocarbon blendstocks without hydrogen addition.
  • The ability to process between 5 percent and 100 percent ethanol in water.
  • Production of minimal amounts of light gases.
  • Operation at relatively low temperature and near atmospheric pressure.
  • The ability to shift product distribution in response to market demands.
  • This technology can also convert a range of other alcohol feedstocks such as methanol, propanol, and butanol into gasoline, diesel, and jet fuel blendstocks as well as produce benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, and xylene (BTEX) that have valuable chemical markets.

The incorporation of this simple, low-cost technology into existing ethanol plants can rapidly transform these facilities into biorefineries with valuable flexibility to shift production among jet fuel, diesel, and gasoline blendstocks, in addition to chemical building blocks, in response to market changes. This new product can help meet the goals of the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), help California meet its low carbon fuel standard (LCFS), and aid the Federal Aviation Administration in achieving their renewable aviation fuel targets.  In addition, the ability to eliminate complete water removal from ethanol can result in energy content costs similar to those for fuel grade ethanol, said Dr Charles Wyman, President and CEO of Vertimass

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