Alternative Fuels Power Alaska Airlines, Coast Guard Ships

Alaska Air biofuel flights

by | Jul 24, 2013

Alaska Air biofuel flightsAlaska Airlines says it will begin using biofuel to power its Hawaii flights as soon as 2018.

The airline has signed an agreement with Hawai`i BioEnergy, a consortium of three of Hawaii’s largest landowners and three venture capital companies that plan to use locally grown feedstocks to produce biofuels.

Hawai`i BioEnergy says the feedstock for the biofuel will likely be woody biomass-based and will be consistent with the sustainability criteria established by the Roundtable on Sustainable Biomaterials, an international multi-stakeholder initiative concerned with ensuring the sustainability of biomass production and processing.

Alaska Airlines is Hawai`i BioEnergy’s second customer, and the first airline to sign a contract. Hawaiian Electric previously announced it had agreed to purchase 10 million gallons of fuel a year from Hawai`i BioEnergy for power generation to the state, pending approval by the Hawaii Public Utilities Commission.

Hawai`i BioEnergy says it will ramp up production of the sustainable fuels within five years of regulatory approval, which will allowing Alaska Airlines to begin procuring sustainable jet fuel by fall 2018.

Hawaii imports 95 percent of its energy needs, says Joel Matsunaga, executive vice president and chief operating officer of Hawai`i BioEnergy. Commercialization of locally grown feedstocks for biofuel production will improve the state’s energy sustainability, he says.

Alaska Airlines has reduced its carbon footprint intensity by 30 percent (measured by revenue passenger miles) since 2004. In 2011, Alaska Airlines and Horizon Air began flying multiple biofuel blend-powered passenger flights in 2011.

In other biofuel news, Gevo has begun supplying the US Coast Guard research and development center with initial quantities of finished 16.1 percent renewable isobutanol-blended gasoline for engine testing.

Patrick Gruber, Gevo’s chief executive officer, says the “drop-in fuel” is compliant with marine fuel specifications and its low-water solvency and non-corrosive characteristics are well suited for marine engines.

The Coast Guard is using the Gevo-blended fuel as part of a 12-month, long-term operational study on marine engines that began in June. The testing is being performed under a cooperative research and development agreement (CRADA) between the Coast Guard, Honda and Mercury and will focus on two of the Coast Guard’s platform boats: a 38-foot special purpose craft training boat and a 25-foot response boat.

The Coast Guard completed a three-month round of testing in Florida earlier this year under the CRADA with Honda engines running on fuel supplied by Gevo that contained 16.1 percent renewable isobutanol. Engines were run at full throttle for an eight-hour day for several months and then broken down and inspected.

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