Lincoln, Neb. —A newly awarded grant from U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Institute for Food and Agriculture (NIFA) aims to expand the use of oilseeds and other vegetable oil crops in renewable jet fuel manufacturing. The grant supports collaborative research by Washington State University chemical engineer Hongfei Lin and University of Nebraska–Lincoln (UNL) plant scientist Ed Cahoon.
Bio-based jet fuel is one of the fastest growing markets for liquid fuels in the renewable energy sector. Lin and Cahoon are teaming to develop new bio-based jet fuel manufacturing technology and crop feedstocks with vegetable oil compositions tailored for this technology.
“Cross-disciplinary projects such as this are critical for expanding markets for Nebraska farmers,” Cahoon notes. “Additionally, crop processing facilities can be deployed in rural communities to improve Nebraska’s bioeconomy.”
Commercial aviation currently accounts for about 2.5% of global greenhouse gas emissions. Airlines have increasingly turned to vegetable oils and animal fat as feedstocks for lower carbon footprint fuels to supplement petroleum-derived jet fuels.
This is part of a commitment among global airlines for a 50% reduction in their greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. The technology being developed by Lin and Cahoon will reduce the costs associated with converting fatty acids from oils and fats into kerosene-based jet fuels.
Current technology for producing jet biofuel requires high energy inputs and expensive infrastructure. Cahoon’s team will use camelina as an oilseed platform to develop vegetable oil formulations with shorter carbon chains that are better suited for the processing technology. These genetic strategies will be transferred to other vegetable oil feedstocks, such as soybean and oil-rich sorghum, which are currently being developed by university faculty for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Center for Advanced Bioenergy and Bioproducts Innovation (CABBI).
Research at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln builds on prior funding from the U.S. Department of Energy and the Nebraska Center for Energy Sciences Research.