Super Hornet Takes Off With Flower Power
US ethanol production has cracked the 40-billion-litre mark, displacing about 364 million barrels of imported oil, according to a new report from the Renewable Fuels Association, while the US navy is currently trialling a biofuel blend – including the flowering plant, camelina – in its sophisticated FA-18 Super Hornet fighter jet.
Peter Hemphill in The Weekly Times (17 & 19 May 2010):
US ETHANOL production has cracked the 40-billion-litre mark, displacing about 364 million barrels of imported oil, according to a new report.
The Renewable Fuels Association’s annual industry report shows US ethanol now accounts for more than half the world’s production of the biofuel.
The Climate of Opportunity report showed the US increased its ethanol production during the past year by 5.2 billion litres, with another 19 refineries coming into production.
There are an estimated 189 refineries in the US with capacity to produce 45 billion litres of ethanol.
By comparison, Australia only produces 215 million litres of ethanol.
The American ethanol industry now underpins corn prices in the US and, with government backing, has reduced US reliance on imports of oil from the volatile Middle East region.
In reference to claims the US ethanol industry was diverting valuable corn away from food to fuel-production, the RFA said energy prices, not biofuels, drove food-price increases.
But the US biofuel industry is now looking at developing ethanol from other sources, such as cellulosic compounds. The RFA report identified 28 cellulose ethanol projects under development and construction in the US, most proposing to produce the biofuel from crop straw, wood, corn or sugar waste but also including municipal solid waste as a substrate.
THE US Navy has given new meaning to the term “flower power”.
The navy is currently trialling a biofuel blend in its sophisticated FA-18 Super Hornet fighter jet.
The blend is half standard jet propellant fuel and half biofuel made from camelina, a flowering plant in the Brassica family, which includes canola, mustard and cauliflower.
Camelina has been grown in Europe and Central Asia as an oilseed crop for more than 3000 years.
It is also known as gold-of-pleasure, false flax, wild flax, German sesame and Siberian oilseed.
US company Sustainable Oils won a contract last September to supply a camelina-based jet biofuel to the US Navy.
Sustainable Oils settled on camelina as a biofuel crop because it was not a food crop and worked well in rotation with wheat.
A number of farmers in Montana supply the oilseed to Sustainable Oils.
The US Navy is the largest diesel user in the world, but hopes to source half its energy needs as alternative fuels by 2020.
The US Navy plans to start using biodiesel in part of its naval fleet by 2016.
According to Biomass Magazine, the US Air Force is also trialling camelina in an A-10 Thunderbolt II jet and plans to source half its domestic aviation fuel as alternative fuels within six years.