PEW Group Briefing on Advanced Biofuels Progress in the Public and Private Sectors
by Josh Rathod (Advanced Biofuels USA) Throughout our country’s history, the U.S. Navy and military proper have played a key role in developing and adopting alternative energy sources. They pioneered the switch to coal as an alternative to reliance on wind power in the 1800s; they headed the switch to petroleum fuel, ushered in the utilization of nuclear plants on carriers and submarines in the 1950s, and now in our country’s development of advanced biofuels, military adoption will continue to be a key part of the industry’s development.
In a recent briefing, representatives from the Department of Defense stated that DOD has a $300 million biofuels budget for the next five years but, in order for it to commit to adopting biofuels energy, it would need: 1) the private sector’s assistance in production of the biofuels; there needs to be another active consumer base larger than the military, and 2) biofuel prices falling to competitive levels.
In order to address these conditions, on March 8th, the Environmental Group of The PEW Charitable Trusts held a briefing on the industry’s production progress, the existing consumer base, and projected prices for a variety of biofuels.
The fact that companies can produce drop-in biofuels (fuels that are chemically identical to jet fuel and biodiesel produced from petroleum) was touted by their corresponding panelists because this illustrates that a consumer base for these fuels already exists in any liquid fuel consumer.
Solazyme’s Harrison Dillon, company President and Chief Technology Officer, explained to attending military reps that, outside of military contracts, they already have cooperation from shipping companies, major oil companies (Chevron), and airlines (United) that are interested in their algae-produced oils. Just recently a 300m shipping vessel traveled 6,500 miles using a 5%-100% blend of Solazyme biofuels and United Airlines just had a commercial flight from Houston to Chicago using a 50/50 mix (Solazyme has a 20 million gallon off-take agreement with the company).
Panel member and VP of Honeywell’s fuel-focused subsidiary UOP, Jim Rekoske, opened his statement with a reminder that the advanced biofuels industry is nearly 100 years the junior of the petroleum industry. He explained that it is understandable, with as complex a process as biofuel production, that it isn’t being produced at $2.50 a gallon yet.
According to Dillon, however, the days of competitive drop-in fuel prices are not very far off. When asked about the possibility of competitive jet biofuels, he referenced another company, Valero, which is currently producing renewable diesel at competitive rates. Dillon explained that renewable diesel and jet fuels are “kissing cousins” when it comes to chemical structure, so jet biofuels should be able to feasibly match renewable diesel’s success in a short amount of time. READ MORE (PEW Environmental Group) Includes audio of presentations. (edit made 3/20/12; changed “biodiesel” to “renewable diesel” in final paragraph)