FPL Research Helps Fuel Coast-to-Coast Flight

Washington state-based Alaska Airlines made history flying the first commercial flight using the world’s first renewable, alternative jet fuel. The fuel was made from forest residuals, the limbs and branches that remain after the harvesting of managed forests.

The alternative jet fuel was produced through the efforts of the Washington State University-led Northwest Advanced Renewables Alliance (NARA), and a technology called SPORL, developed by Forest Products Laboratory’s JunYong Zhu.

FPL-developed technology contributed to the development of the first alternative jet fuel made from forest residues. (Photo courtesy of NARA.)

FPL-developed technology contributed to the development of the first alternative jet fuel made from forest residues. (Photo courtesy of NARA.)

The demonstration flight departed Seattle-Tacoma International Airport for Reagan National Airport in Washington, D.C. The flight was fueled with a 20 percent blend of sustainable aviation biofuel, which is chemically indistinguishable from regular jet A fuel. The flight, the first commercial passenger flight of its kind, continues to advance viable alternatives to conventional fossil fuels for aviation.

Reducing carbon footprint

“This latest milestone in Alaska’s efforts to promote sustainable biofuels is especially exciting since it is uniquely sourced from the forest residuals in the Pacific Northwest,” said Joe Sprague, Alaska Airlines’ senior vice president of communications and external relations. “NARA’s accomplishments and the investment of the U.S. Department of Agriculture provide another key in helping Alaska Airlines and the aviation industry reduce its carbon footprint and dependency on fossil fuels.”

While the 1,080 gallons of biofuel used on the flight has a minimal impact to Alaska Airlines’ overall greenhouse gas emissions, if the airline were able to replace 20 percent of its entire fuel supply at Sea-Tac Airport, it would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by about 142,000 metric tons of CO2. This is equivalent to taking approximately 30,000 passenger vehicles off the road for one year.

NARA is a five-year project that launched in 2011 and is comprised of 32 member organizations from industry, academia and government laboratories. Today’s flight represents its efforts to develop alternative jet fuel derived from post-harvest forestry material that is often burned after timber harvest.

The forest residual feedstock used to power Alaska Airlines Flight 4 was sourced from tribal lands and private forestry operations in the Pacific Northwest. In addition to producing 1,080 gallons of biofuel used for the flight, other key tasks of the project included evaluating the economic, environmental and societal benefits and impacts associated with harvesting unused forest residuals for biofuel production.

Empowering regional, rural economies

The NARA initiative was made possible by a $39.6 million grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) to support research on biofuels and biochemicals, foster regional supply chain coalitions, empower rural economic development and educate the public on the benefits of bioenergy.

“Today is a tribute to all of our NARA partners, and especially to NIFA who supported our mission to facilitate the revolutionary development of biojet and bioproduct industries in the Pacific Northwest using forest residuals that would otherwise become waste products,” said Ralph Cavalieri, NARA executive director. “We are proud of every one of the partners and stakeholders – from forest managers to Gevo and Alaska Airlines – who have laid the foundations for a renewable fuel economy that will keep skies clear and healthy with the potential to bolster economically challenged timber-based rural communities in our region.”

Gevo, Inc., a NARA partner, successfully adapted its patented technologies to convert cellulosic sugars derived from wood waste into renewable isobutanol, which was then converted into Gevo’s Alcohol-to-Jet (ATJ) fuel. Believed to be the world’s first alternative jet fuel produced from wood, the fuel meets international ASTM (American Society for Testing and Materials) standards, allowing it to be used safely for today’s commercial flight.

WSU among many partners, stakeholders

“This first of its kind flight demonstrates Gevo’s commitment and ability to convert a wide range of sugar feedstocks into drop-in renewable fuels,” said Pat Gruber, Gevo’s chief executive officer. “We are pleased that we had the opportunity to prove, through the NARA project, that cellulosic sugars from wood can be used to successfully make commercial jet fuel. We congratulate our fellow NARA partners and thank the USDA-NIFA for its unwavering support in the pursuit of renewable jet fuel. I also thank Alaska Airlines, which continues to be a great partner.”

Photos and video from today’s news conference are available for download at

http://blog.alaskaair.com. Learn more about NARA Renewables at https://nararenewables.org/ and follow the flight using the hashtags #JetFuel and #CleanEnergy.

FPL Partner Procures Patent: Better Building With BioSIPS

Whether serving as a bookshelf, tabletop, or wall panel, the composite board is a ubiquitous construction material found in furniture and homes alike. Traditional composite boards use mankind’s most trusted building resource, wood, as a base — but a new patented process using waste products stands to revolutionize the familiar building material, making it even more sustainable and environmentally friendly.

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BioSIPS use low-value recycled material to make high-value structural materials.

Julee Herdt, a professor at the University of Colorado – Denver, and Kellen Schauermann, a former graduate student, were recently awarded a patent for their Bio-Structural Insulated Panels (BioSIPS) system. BioSIPS are structural boards comprised of waste material such as recycled paper, noxious weeds, industrial hemp, and forest debris.

Herdt, the CEO and president of BioSIPS Inc., hopes that her product will help ease the environmental and energy concerns of tomorrow.

Although wood-based Structural Insulated Panels (SIPS) have been around for some time, Herdt’s BioSIPS, made from 100% recycled material, could replace their conventional wood counterparts. BioSIPS wall, floor, and roof panels even surpass conventional SIPS in some strength-testing areas (especially compressive and transverse loading) as well as exhibit superior thermal characteristics — which is important, as thermally-efficient structures go hand-in-hand with decreased energy usage.

Herdt’s accomplishment comes on the heels of a long legacy of research and collaboration with the Forest Products Laboratory (FPL). In 1995, she was part of a project that researched and tested GRIDCORE (FPL’s Spaceboard) panels — three-dimensional, molded structural panels comprised of recycled corrugated containers, old newsprint, and kenaf, a plant native to southern Asia. The name “spaceboard” referred to the spaces afforded by the waffle-like design of the GRIDCORE panels, which allowed for increased strength and decreased weight and material usage.

Nearly 20 years later, BioSIPS, like GRIDCORE panels before them, carry on the tradition of turning society’s low-grade waste into high-value products that have proven utility in real-world construction projects. Along with her personal office, Herdt and her team built entire houses with BioSIPS, winning first prize at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Solar Decathlon in 2002 and 2005.

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Herdt, Schauermann and Hunt await another patent for new methods of creating complex three-dimensional shapes with fiber boards.

Herdt and Schauermann, along with FPL Research General Engineer John Hunt, are awaiting the award of a second patent, Cut-Fold Shape Technology for Engineered Molded Fiber Boards, which relates to a new process of folding fiber boards into three-dimensional shapes to maximize their utility and strength.

In a world of increased environmental awareness, BioSIPS promise to offer designers, engineers, and industry professionals new ways to build strong, energy-efficient structures and provide another avenue for society to make better use of its waste products. Through technologies like these, we will better be able to tackle the construction challenges of tomorrow in an environmentally responsible way.

 

 

Researchers Honored with Fellowship

TAPPI, the leading association for the worldwide pulp, paper, packaging, and converting industries, has announced the selection of FPL’s Carl Houtman and Junyong Zhu as TAPPI Fellows.

“Fellow” is an honorary title bestowed upon a small percentage of TAPPI’s membership and is given to individuals who have made extraordinary technical and service contributions to the industry and/or the association.

Junyong Zhu, FPL research general engineer

Junyong Zhu, FPL research general engineer

Carl Houtman, FPL chemical engineer

Carl Houtman, FPL chemical engineer

“We are extremely proud of JY and Carl in their designation as a TAPPI Fellow,” said Michael T. Rains, Director of the Forest Products Laboratory and Northern Research Station. “This is a tremendous honor and highlights their calling for public service and vibrant representation of the Department of Agriculture, the Forest Service, and our research and development mission area.  Their skill in discovery and dedication to innovative technology is helping improve people’s lives and create healthy, sustainable forests that are more resilient to disturbances such as a changing climate, wildfires, and the outbreaks of destructive invasive species.”

Houtman is a chemical engineer and has been a TAPPI member since 1998. Zhu is a research general engineer and has been a TAPPI member since 1994. Both researchers work within FPL’s Fiber and Chemical Science Research work unit.

 

FPL Researcher Receives 2014 TAPPI Research and Development Technical Award

JunYong Zhu, research general engineer at the Forest Products Laboratory, is winner of the 2014 Research and Development Technical Award and William H. Aiken Prize by TAPPI’s International Research Management Committee (IRMC). This award is given for outstanding accomplishments or contributions advancing the technology of paper and related industries. The award will be presented this week at PaperCon 2014 in Nashville, Tennessee.

JY-ZHU

JunYong Zhu, research general engineer at FPL.

By focusing on biomass utilization, mill pulping and fiber processing technology and processes, Dr. Zhu’s work has “made a significant contribution to the industry’s fundamental understanding of these areas as well as our ability to use materials commercially,” notes Larry N. Montague, president and CEO of TAPPI. “His research spans both laboratory and mill-level studies and this prestigious award recognizes the importance and the impact of this work.”

Zhu’s work includes developing the Kraft pulping process and air emission controls, novel flotation deinking technologies, test methods for pulp and paper analysis, upgrading and pretreatment of forest residues for biofuel production and novel methods for the production of cellulose nanomaterials. It has also included research on understanding the fundamentals of cellulase enzyme interactions with lignocelluloses for woody biomass bioconversion.

TAPPI is the leading association for the worldwide pulp, paper, packaging, tissue and converting industries and publisher of Paper360°, Tissue360° and TAPPI JOURNAL.

A Winning Paper…on Paper

A journal article authored by Forest Products Laboratory researchers David Vahey (retired) and John Considine has been selected as the TAPPI Journal Best Research Paper for 2013.

David Vahey, FPL research materials engineer (retired)

David Vahey, FPL research materials engineer (retired)

Vahey and Considine, both materials research engineers, wrote “Influence of forming conditions on fiber tilt” with partner Michael MacGregor who is retired from MacGregor Paper Consulting. The research was assessed based on innovation, creativity, scientific merit, and clear and concise presentation of ideas.

John Considine, FPL research material engineer

John Considine, FPL research material engineer

“This paper is an example of high-quality, fundamental research that significantly improves the industry’s understanding of basic sheet properties and sheet structure and the model developed could also potentially be used to aid in troubleshooting paper performance,” said TAPPI Journal Editorial Board member Terry Bliss. The paper reported “highly valuable and innovative research work that expanded on earlier research by developing a simple model for fiber tilt.” In addition, Bliss said, results were written in a “clear, logical, and easy-to-follow manner. It’s a very thorough and well written research paper.”

The paper and its authors will be honored at the PaperCon 2014 Conference Awards Dinner on Tuesday, April 29, 2014 in Nashville, Tennessee, USA.

TAPPI is the leading association for the worldwide pulp, paper, packaging, tissue and converting industries and publisher of Paper360°, Tissue360° and TAPPI Journal.