Frequently Asked Questions:


Q: I understand there were two basic reasons why aircraft were not certified for 100% use of biofuel on commercials flights: (a) the lack of aromatics in fuels produced from biomass caused a problem with engine seals, and (b) there was a lack of energy density in such fuels and therefore required blending with conventional jet kerosene. Can you explain how you have resolved these problems?

Our ReadiJet® biofuel meets all of the specifications of petroleum-based fuels. The biofuels ISOCONVERSION Process is a combination of ARA’s CH technology and Chevron Lummus Global’s ISOCONVERSION® Catalysts technology to make the finished ReadiJet fuel. Catalytic Hydrothermolysis (CH) uses water at high temperature and pressure to both crack and cyclize plant or algal oils into compounds that are ideal for jet and diesel fuels.  The Aromatic content of ReadiJet® is comparable to petroleum jet fuel so seal swelling is not a problem.  Because ReadiJet® contains high-density aromatic and cycloparaffin compounds, bulk fuel density and volumetric energy content is also comparable to petroleum jet fuel.

Q: How is jet fuel different from diesel or other fuels, and why it might be more challenging to replace with bio-based sources?

Jet fuel is a kerosene-based fuel similar to diesel fuel but is more highly refined and must meet a much more stringent specification than diesel.  In general, jet fuels have much lower freezing point, lower viscosity, and much better storage and thermal stability than diesel fuel. Jet fuels, especially military jet fuels like JP-8, also contain several additives to improve performance.

Q: When did you begin working with Agrisoma and first come across the Resonance strain of Brassica carinata?  How is the oil you get from Resonance different from what you would get in canola, soy, or another traditional oil crop?

We began working with Agrisoma in the spring of 2011. The primary difference between Carinata and other plant oils is that the oil from Carinata contains C22 fatty acids - fatty acids that have chain lengths containing 22 carbon atoms. Oils from canola or soybean contain primarily fatty acid chains with 18 carbon atoms – C18. The longer chain fatty acid molecules in Carinata oil give us better yields of diesel and jet fuel with our process. Oil from Carinata is a true industrial oil and cannot be use in food or food preparation. Also, Carinata can grow on semi arid cropland so that does not compete with cultivation of traditional food crops. Agrisoma Biosciences planted 6,800 acres in 2012 which will yield almost 500,000 gallons of oil. Agrisoma has plans to scale up the production of Carinata to between 125,000 and 250,000 acres by summer of 2013.

Q: What are the challenges involved in turning seed oil into jet fuel?

There are three primary challenges: 1) cracking the fatty acids into smaller, jet-fuel-size (C9-C15) molecules, 2) isomerizing and cyclizing the cracked product into cycloparaffins and aromatics to improve jet fuel density, low-temperature properties, and ability to swell fuel system seals and gaskets, and 3) removal of oxygen atoms to make jet fuels that are pure hydrocarbons. Our simple and cost effective process overcomes each of these challenges.

Q: How does Readijet® compare to the cost per gallon of petroleum jet fuel? 

We are currently operating at pilot scale. At full commercial scale, 5000 bbl/day or larger, our production costs will be very similar to petroleum processing costs. With feed stocks that are competitively priced with petroleum crude, our fuels can be produced at parity with petroleum without subsidies.

Q: Do you have pilot facilities running this process?

Yes. We currently have 25 gallon-per-day and 3 barrel-per day pilot systems operating in Panama City, Florida. The 25 gallon-per-day system has been operating since 2008 and the 3 barrel-per-day system has been operating since 2010. We will be breaking ground in early 2013 on a 100 bbl/day demonstration facility.

Q: Could your process be applied to fuels used by the driving public, i.e., diesel and gasoline, to eventually reduce our dependence on foreign oil?

Yes.  Although we are currently applying this technology to produce military and civilian aviation fuel, it can also be used to cost-effectively produce consumer biofuels such as diesel and gasoline using existing infrastructure. Our process produces a full spectrum of hydrocarbon molecules that are virtually indistinguishable from their petroleum counterparts.  Out of each gallon of feedstock, we produce diesel, jet fuel, and gasoline.  We can tailor our process to optimize the yields of each type of fuel. 

Q: Where are you now in the process of commercialization?

ARA and our commercialization partner, Chevron Lummus Global, are marketing the conversion technology worldwide.  We have completed preliminary engineering on a full-scale commercial system and have one licensing agreement in place. We are in discussions with a number of refiners who are conducting due diligence on our technology.

We are finalizing engineering on a demonstration facility – 100 barrels per day – that will be used to make larger fuel samples for additional testing and certification.  In addition, negotiations are ongoing with several companies for the licensing, design, engineering, and construction of commercial-scale systems.