There is much to be excited about being a graduate from the University of Dayton. As a writer I can lay claim to graduating from the same school as Erma Bombeck. But recent developments at the University of Dayton Research Institute (UDRI) appeals to my greener side. Many people are looking for greener alternatives to our dependence on oil. The dangers of petroleum oil are of paramount importance to many of us now as we watch the destruction and damage that is occurring right now in the Gulf due to the recent oil spill.
There have been many environmentally friendly alternatives to oil attempted such as: ethanol, biodiesel fuel, hybrids, solar powered transportation and even coffee grounds, but now the Air Force, UDRI and many jet airline carriers are flying where no alternative has gone before by exploring the environmentally friendly fuel alternative camelina oil.
What is Camelina Oil?
It is an oil is derived from a flowering plant in the same family as cabbage, broccoli, and mustard.
What are some uses for Camelina Oil?
It’s not designed as a healthy eating and cooking alternative but as a biomass fuel alternative. The U.S. Air Force used camelina oil for a historic first in biomass fuels. While the Air Force has tested flights in part using conventional fuel and part bio-mass derived fuels, the A-10 Thunderbolt II jet flight on March 25, 2010 was the first completed flight using this combination.
“This is truly a landmark occasion for the Air Force, for aviation, and for the nation. It demonstrates the Air Force’s commitment to helping the U.S. wean from its dependence on foreign oil sources with minimal impact to the environment,” says Dilip Ballal at the University of Dayton Research Institution. The University of Dayton scientists worked with the Air Force Petroleum Agency to analyze and test the properties of the biomass fuel blend used in the test flight.
Air Force officials emphasized the significance of testing what is called “hydro treated” renewable jet fuels, a group of fuels created from plant oils or animal fat feed stocks, that have an emphasis on not competing with food crops.
Why is Camelina Oil exciting as an eco friendly fuel alternative?
The camelina plant requires very little work or fertilizers. Because it is grown on land that is less than optimal for other crops it there is no competition with food crops. Tests have shown a reduction in particulate emissions during the combustion of bio fuels, meaning less greenhouse emissions.
Where will Camelina Oil go from here?
Continued testing with hydro treated renewable jet fuel will continue the summer of 2010 with certification test flights this summer on the F-15 Eagle, the F-22 Raptor, and the C-17 Globe master. The Air Force is pursing its green goals with by acquiring half of the fuel needed from cost-competitive, domestic, alternative fuels by 2016. Since the Air Force uses about the same amount of fuel annually as mid-size airlines, this could be a significant reduction in greenhouse emissions and foreign oil dependency. The significance of using biomass fuels, not just for the Air Force but also for commercial airlines in the future, is huge, since a single domestic airline uses 2.5 billion gallons of jet fuel per year.
“Fuels, particularly jet fuels, have very specific requirements that must be met,” Steven Zabarnick, group leader for fuel research, said. “So in working with alternative fuels, we must carefully analyze and measure their chemical properties, as well as test and evaluate how those fuels are behaving in aircraft engines.”
Domestic Jet Use of Camelina Oil
A memorandum of understanding has been entered into joining 14 major airlines, AltAir Fuels and it will be used to replace 10% of the petroleum fuel used at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. Airlines involved include American, Delta, United and US Air as well as JetBlue, Lufthansa, Alaska and even Fed Ex. The use of camelina oil requires no special handling and it is compatible with the use of existing fuel sources.
A group of ATA carriers signed a similar agreement for a project using synthetic jet fuel developed from fossil fuels found in Mississippi.
Boeing is one of the leaders in the ASTM Emerging Fuels Taskforce. This taskforce was created to gain the necessary approvals for bio-derived fuel use in aviation. If approval is granted as expected, the use of camelina oil as part of a portfolio of biomass sources used to create a sustainable aviation fuel supply could occur as early as this year.
Are there other alternatives on the horizon?
Researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison are working on a new way to convert cellulose from agricultural waste into gasoline and jet fuel.
As these continued research efforts for fuel alternatives increase in not only success but awareness we may be provided with not only biomass fuel alternatives we can all use, that are more readily available, are better for our environment and provide us with a much needed alternative to our dependence on oil both foreign and domestic.
University of Dayton Quarterly (Alumni Newsletter)