Wings Magazine

Rentech’s synthetic jet fuel powers first U.S. commercial flight


Rentech’s synthetic jet fuel
powers first U.S. commercial flight

Rentech, Inc. has announced that a successful engineering validation flight was conducted on April 30, 2010 by United Airlines using Rentech’s certified synthetic jet fuel (RenJet®).

May 3, 2010  By Carey Fredericks

May 3, 2010, Los Angeles, CA – Rentech, Inc. has announced that a successful engineering validation flight was conducted on April 30, 2010 by United Airlines using Rentech’s certified synthetic jet fuel (RenJet®). The flight marks the first time a U.S.commercial airline has used synthetic jet fuel in flight and underscores Rentech’s leadership role in a lower carbon future with the use of domestic technology and resources to fuel the nation's transportation needs.
In December 2009, United, along with twelve other domestic and international passenger and cargo carriers, signed a Memorandum of Understanding that is intended to serve as a framework for a future definitive supply agreement for approximately 250 million gallons per year of certified synthetic jet fuel from Rentech's proposed synthetic fuels and power facility in Adams County, Mississippi (Natchez Project).
The synthetic jet fuel used in today’s engineering validation flight was produced at Rentech’s Product Demonstration Unit, which is believed to be the only operating integrated synthetic transportation fuels facility in the U.S. RenJet®, produced from renewable or fossil feedstocks, is the first and only alternative fuel type certified for use by commercial aviation. Rentech’s synthetic jet fuel can be distributed and used in existing infrastructure including pipelines and engines and are cleaner burning than traditional petroleum-derived jet fuel.
D. Hunt Ramsbottom, President and CEO, of Rentech commented, “Today’s successful engineering validation flight is a significant step forward for Rentech and the commercial aviation industry. Rentech is proud to partner with United Airlines to demonstrate the viability of certified synthetic jet fuel as an environmentally superior and economically competitive alternative fuel source that can be produced domestically with U.S. jobs.” Mr. Ramsbottom continued, “This flight, along with the customer agreements we are pursuing with the airlines, validates the considerable market demand for synthetic fuels produced by the Rentech Process. The value of Rentech’s technology lies in its flexibility to use renewable and fossil feedstocks to produce drop-in, certified fuels that are clean-burning and ready for commercial-scale production today.”
“This flight confirms our assumptions about how this fuel performs on a commercial aircraft in a variety of situations and represents the next step in our effort to stimulate competition in the aviation fuel supply chain, promote energy security through economically viable alternatives that also demonstrate environmental benefits and contribute to the creation of green jobs," said Joseph Kolshak, United Airlines senior vice president of operations.
The validation flight was conducted using a 40/60 mix of Rentech’s synthetic jet fuel with conventional Jet A fuel in one of two engines on an Airbus 319 aircraft. The aircraft departed Denver International Airport and climbed to an altitude of 39,000 feet where the onboard team collected data on the performance of the fuel during several maneuvers, including taxi, takeoff, climb, cruise, auxiliary power unit start, descent and approach. The synthetic jet fuel, derived from natural gas and converted to liquid fuel through the Rentech Fischer Tropsch process, is approved by the ASTM International and is safe for use on passenger flights.
Captain Joseph Burns, United Airlines managing director, technology and flight test, led a team of 19 engineers and observers on board the flight. Definitive results and analysis of the performance of the synthetic jet fuel and the aircraft are expected within the next 10 days.
In August 2009, United was among eight airlines who signed an unprecedented multi-year agreement with Rentech for up to 1.5 million gallons per year of renewable synthetic diesel (RenDiesel®) for ground service equipment operations at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) beginning in late 2012, when Rentech’s Rialto Renewable Energy Center is scheduled to go into service.
Earlier this year, Rentech and ClearFuels Technology jointly received a $22.6 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy to construct a biomass gasifier at Rentech’s Energy Technology Center in Denver. The gasifier will be integrated with Rentech’s Product Demonstration Unit for the production of renewable synthetic fuels from biomass in late 2011.


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