Wood Waste Used For Jet Fuel


Discarded wood products that otherwise would have been disposed of as waste now can be processed into a biofuel that can power jet airplanes, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said this week. On Monday, an Alaska Airlines jet flew the first commercial flight powered in part by the new commercial fuel. “In 2011, USDA awarded our largest-ever competitive research grant to the Northwest Advanced Renewables Alliance, betting on the promise that cellulose-rich, discarded wood products could be a viable renewable fuel source,” said Tom Vilsack, secretary of agriculture. “Today, we are able to celebrate the results of that investment, which is a major advancement for clean alternatives to conventional fossil fuels.”

The demonstration flight used a 20-percent blend of jet fuel made from cellulose derived from limbs and branches that typically remain on the ground after harvesting sustainably managed private forests. Cellulose, the main component of wood, is the most abundant material in nature and has long been a subject of investigation for producing sustainable biofuels, the USDA said. Alaska Airlines estimated that if it replaced 20 percent of its fuel at Sea-Tac Airport with biofuel, it would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by about 142,000 metric tons of CO2 annually. This is equivalent to taking approximately 30,000 passenger vehicles off the road for one year. The five-year, $40 million research project was funded by the USDA.