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Alberta Researchers Land $2.9-Million Federal Grant to Produce Jet Fuel from Ag Waste

A research team at the University of Alberta has received a C$2.89-million grant from Natural Resources Canada to produce jet fuel from waste fats and oils.

“The aviation space is about 2% of our carbon footprint out there, and it really has nothing in the short term that can help them reduce their carbon footprint,” team leader David Bressler, associate dean of the U of A’s Faculty of Agriculture, Life and Environmental Sciences, told an Edmonton-area CBC show earlier this week. “As we’re developing this, not only does it create that opportunity to blend with traditional fuels into traditional engines, it actually has better emissions criteria than some of the traditional petrochemicals.”

Bressler’s group “has been working on a project to convert renewable materials—that are often already turned into biodiesel fuel—into fuel that can be used by jet engines,” CBC writes. When biodiesel is produced from sources like plant oils, waste cooking oil, or animal fats, the national broadcaster adds, “the result is a sustainable alternative with a lower carbon footprint than traditional fossil fuels.”

The federal dollars will allow the research team to invest in pilot plants and an advanced fuel testing suite. They’re working to scale up their concept for commercialization while Forge Hydrocarbons, a company that CBC says is based on Bressler’s research, builds a $30-million plant in Sarnia.

“Biofuel for jets would be a timely advancement with the aviation industry facing pressure to reduce its carbon footprint,” CBC notes. “Newly manufactured planes now often have a lifespan of 35 to 40 years and are difficult to retrofit, Bressler said. This makes renewable fuels an easy way to cut into emissions.”

Bressler added that he’s been interested in turning waste fats and oils into biofuels since 2003. “What really got me into this 20 years ago was looking at creating new value pathways for agriculture,” he said.