Using a specialized liquefaction refining technology, scientists at the University of North Dakota’s Energy & Environmental Research Center (EERC) have created jet fuel from a combination of biomass feedstock and coal with help from the U.S. Department of Energy, which is spending millions on biomass programs.
The project at EERC is part of a larger, ongoing plan at the center to find a wide range of jet fuels that can be produced domestically, without the need for petroleum, in order to secure America’s aviation infrastructure. While researchers say the new coal-biomass fuel is basically identical to current fuels, and can be integrated easily into existing commercial technology, one of the goals of the program is to make sure that the experimental jet fuel can support the U.S. Armed Forces, which will perform its own testing in the coming months.
Although scientists say the biomass-coal jet fuel that they’ve produced exceeds thermal stability specifications of the military, which means the mixture can burn cleanly, biofuels have come under some scrutiny from institutions like MIT, which says the resources used aren’t always green, and U.N., which says the increase demand for certain crops can damage developing nations.
Of course, if the project was truly about being green, it’s doubtful scientists would be using coal in the creation process. So, although EERC claims the new development can reduce the environmental footprint of jet fuel, it seems the most important goal of the project is to find new ways to produce energy for military airplanes should oil imports from places like South America and the Middle East ever be cutoff.