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.

Putting Woody Biomass to Use: July Update from FPMU is out!

fpmuupdateThe latest Update from the Forest Products Laboratory’s Forest Products Marketing Unit (FPMU) is now available!

The July 2016 Update features a FPMU program delivery partner, Dusty Moller. Moller is a Biomass Utilization Specialist for University of Washington in Spokane. His many years in the wood industry have gained him much insight and passion in the area of woody biomass utilization, leading to his ability to advance wood utilization and marketing. This Update also includes a calendar of upcoming classes, events, and workshops.

If you would like to receive the FPMU Update via email, send a message to asarnecki@fs.fed.us to be added to the distribution list.

The Power of Partnerships: FPMU June Update Now Online

fpmuupdateThe latest Update from the Forest Products Laboratory’s Forest Products Marketing Unit (FPMU) is now available!

The June 2016 Update focuses on the power of partnerships. FPMU works closely with program delivery partners across the United States to support utilization and marketing of forest residues, small-diameter trees, and woody biomass—all generated through hazardous fuels reduction, forest management, and restoration. This Update includes a guest column from one such partner and also a calendar of upcoming classes, events, and workshops.

If you would like to receive the FPMU Update via email, send a message to asarnecki@fs.fed.us to be added to the distribution list.

Wood for Energy Focus of May “Update”

fpmuupdateThe latest Update from the Forest Products Laboratory’s Forest Products Marketing Unit (FPMU) is now available!

The May 2016 Update focuses on wood for heat and power. The Update reveals the winners of the National Wood Stove Competition and outlines the accomplishments of 21 state wood energy teams. It also includes exciting news about a new tribal sawmill operation that runs on biomass, as well as a calendar of upcoming classes, events, and workshops.

If you would like to receive the FPMU Update via email, send a message to asarnecki@fs.fed.us to be added to the distribution list.

Newest Forest Products Journal Features Adhesives: Many FPL Researchers Present

Adhesive-bond

Photomicrograph of an adhesive bond of two pieces of wood. The blue areas show the adhesive penetration into the wood structure.

The latest issue (Volume 54, No. 1/2, 2015) of The Forest Products Journal is all about adhesives. Featuring 10 selected articles addressing a theme of efficient use of wood resources in wood adhesive bonding research presented at the 2013 International Conference on Wood Adhesives in Toronto, Canada, we hear from several FPL scientists.

FPL has played an integral role in developing technical understanding of adhesives and setting product and performance standards by organizations such as the ASTM International (formerly American Society for Testing and Materials), American Institute of Timber Construction (AITC), APA–The Engineered Wood Association (APA), and the American Forest and Paper Association (AF&PA).

The first glue development research at the FPL in 1917 was to improve water resistance of the best glues available for manufacture of WWI aircraft components. At that time, FPL began to develop composites in an attempt to conserve our forests and make use of waste wood. Adhesives for housing, other buildings, timber bridges, and other structures has always been important.

In the Introduction to Special Issue: Wood Adhesives: Past, Present, and Future, Team Leader, Wood Adhesives, Forest Biopolymer Science and Engineering, Charles Frihart provides a comprehensive history and explanation of the important role that adhesives have played in the efficient utilization of wood resources.

Speaking about wood products, Frihart says: “Adhesives will continue to be a growing part of efficient utilization of forest resources. However, acquiring suitable wood resources will continue to be a challenge because of a diminished supply of high-quality wood and competition for wood from wood pellet and biorefinery industries. The challenges involve dealing with species that are not currently being used and with a greater mixture of species. More plantation wood could involve increased porosity and lower strength because of increased proportion of earlywood. The wood may also have increased or more variable moisture content as a result of efforts to reduce drying costs.

Wood products volume should continue to increase especially if engineered wood products replace other building materials for multi-story buildings and if there are sufficient housing starts. One challenge could be in bonding wood to other materials if glulam or laminated veneer lumber start using layers of stronger polymers or composites for greater strength. There also might be markets for bonding to modified wood, such as acetylated wood or heat-treated wood.”

Challenges in our changing forests and in changing construction practices will keep Frihart and his team busy for years to come as they find ways to use their adhesive research to adjust to change and best utilize our natural resources.