Biokerosene: Revolution in World Aviation

Biokerosene: Making a Revolution in World Aviation

Biokerosene: Long before biofuels had the visibility and acceptance they have today, we have written, promoted and disseminated in our training courses, lectures, seminars, books and papers what we call ‘biofuel revolution’.

Turbine Jet Fueled with Lufthansa Biokerosene (click to enlarge)

Turbine Jet Fueled with Lufthansa Biokerosene (click to enlarge)

A few years ago we wrote an article on this subject that generated repercussions in the industry with opinions both favorable and not so positive. Some even said this would never be a reality.

We remember clearly when, at the beginning of the last decade, we said that biofuels could be made from waste processing tilapia, very few believed it. However, we never give up a good idea, even if it implies overcoming some challenges.

We develop general and specific sites (,, aimed at disseminating information and promoting the sustainable production of biofuels at all possible levels.

We affirm and reaffirm that if done correctly, the peaceful revolution of Biofuels has the potential to completely transform and change the primary sector and positively impact the entire global economy.

Today we see that slowly but surely, this new highly active and important sector is gradually taking shape, with the prospective to transform and boost agricultural and aquaculture industries globally.

One of the fast growing potentials we observed it is the capability of supplying biokerosene to the airline industry.  A market worth around $ 100 billion per year that is now open to renewable fuels.

What we have observed is that after years of ups and downs producing more thunder than lightning, the commercial production of Biokerosene for civil aviation industry worldwide is slowly becoming a fact, starting with production on several continents.

Candidates of Raw Materials for Production of Aviation Biokerosene

The leading candidates of raw materials for biokerosene aviation are jatropha, camelina, algae and greasy residues. Each of these sources has its ardent supporters.

Recently a Mexican airline company made the first flight in Latin America biokerosene using the base oil of Jatropha curcas flying from Mexico City to the city of Tuxtla Gutierrez in the southern state of Chiapas.

In this technological stage none of these candidates of raw materials can produce at a price approaching that of fossil fuel aviation Jet A-1.

However, it is only a matter of time that with additional research and large investments prices will become competitive in the market.

When we look at the emerging picture of biofuels and biokerosene, it is increasingly clear that, although the United States and Brazil are major producers of renewable energy currently in the form of ethanol, many other countries are entering this race.

In March this year a European consortium Airbus, the Romanian state airline Tarom, UOP Honeywell and CCE (Camelina Company) announced plans to establish a center for the production of biokerosene in Romania for the production of bio-jet fuels for civil aviation, using camelina as raw material.

Recently, China National Petroleum Corp. announced that it delivered 15 tonnes of jatropha oil to help Air China to make biofuel-powered flight tests, scheduled for later this year. And just last year Boeing announced a collaboration with the Qingdao Institute of BioEnergy and Bioprocess Technology (QIBEBT) to establish a joint laboratory to accelerate microalgae-based aviation biofuels research.

This week, the Mozambique information agency announced that a local company headquartered in the UK, exported to the German airline Lufthansa, the first batch of 30 tonnes of jatropha oil produced in the Mozambican province of Manica.

In Brazil, the aircraft manufacturers Boeing and Embraer announced plans to jointly finance a sensitivity analysis to investigate the possibility of producing renewable fuel by air from the Brazilian sugar cane.

The study will also be financed by the Interamerican Development Bank (IDB), and will evaluate the environmental effects of fuel produced by an international company from sugar cane in Brazil.

However, as shown on our website, history and greater stimulus to accelerate the development of biofuels for aviation occurred in July this year, when the ASTM International announced the approval of its standard fuel Bio-SPK, allowing the use of hydro – treated renewable jet (HRJ) Jet A-1 fuel in commercial aviation.

This has established the feasibility of bio-jet fuels to be mixed at a ratio of 50-50 with Jet A-1 fuel derived from traditional fossil fuels.

Acceptance Challenges For A Large-Scale Bio-Kerosene Aviation

Currently, the biggest challenge for acceptance in a wide range of aviation biofuel is its high cost. Biokerosene delivered last year for the U.S. military to assess the absurd cost of over U.S. $ 70 per gallon.

Of course, these prices have no way to be competitive with fuel derived from traditional sources of hydrocarbons.

However, we all know that processing costs will decrease in direct proportion to the achievement of volume production on a large scale.

As is well known worldwide, both Brazil and the United States have supported the production of biofuel at market values, ??practiced in the form of ethanol. In the case of Brazil derived from sugar cane, in the United States produced from corn.

Even though the production is for ground transportation, the two countries are capable of being leaders in biojetfuels also.

This shows that the technology is in place, the product has been certified and at the end of the day, the Brazilian and American groups are talking about an agricultural product which ideally, depending on where it is planted, can produce one or even two crops per year. Or in the case of algae, double its biomass every day.

With these two and other countries and producers such as Boeing, Airbus and Embraer entered in full speed in the promotion of biojetfuels production, we have plenty of opportunities to see prices fall and the biofuels revolution actually happening in the civil aviation industry and military.

In practice we have a huge, multibillion dollar market for jet fuel open to farmers in both agriculture and aquaculture areas. Opportunities like that cannot be wasted.

By: Dr. Aecio D’Silva, CEO Moura Technologies and Dr. John Kyndt ( Head Scientist of the Renewable Energy Program at Advanced Energy Creations Lab)

Developing GE Thermophilic Bacteria for Syngas to Fuel Conversion

By: Dr. John Kyndt ( Head Scientist of the Renewable Energy Program at Advanced Energy Creations Lab) and Dr. Aecio D’Silva.

Although much debate is still going on what the most efficient way is to turn algae biomass into high yield fuel, one promising option is the extraction of oil out of the algae biomass first and using the lipid extracted algae (LEA) for syngas production in a second step.

Depending on the triglyceride and hydrocarbon composition of the oil, the specific algal oil can be further processed for biodiesel through transesterification, or biojetfuel production through hydrocracking.

Syngas (‘synthetic gas’ or ‘synthesis gas’) can be generated by plasma arc based gasification of algae or LEA.  The conversion of syngas into liquid fuel can be done either chemically (using a chemical catalyst) or biologically (using bacteria).

Laboratories in many parts of the world (including ours) are working diligently using genetic engineering (GE) techniques to generate thermophilic bacteria that can improve the current methods for syngas to fuel conversion, and novel algae strains with desired commercial properties that provide a better feedstock.

To design the improved thermophilic bacteria we focus on developing species that can tolerate optimal concentrations of syngas and ethanol (or butanol) and function at high temperature range in lab-scale fermenters.

In the case of algae optimization, laboratory-scale experiments need to be combined with pilot plant results to elucidate optimal parameters for the growth of the selected algae, extraction of the desired oil fraction, and quality analysis of the resulting oil.

By combining the power of biotechnology, through cutting-edge genetic engineering and proteomics, it is possible to develop high value products for the biofuel industry and markets. At the same time as designing optimized bacterial and algal species for pilot plants, it is desirable to develop a full cost model for the production of bioethanol, biodiesel and biojetfuel from syngas conversion.

All of these methods have to be optimized and their cost efficiency should be compared. The desired outcome of this work can provide cost-effective biodiesel, bioethanol and biojetfuel production, from waste biomass through syngas conversion or directly from microalgae.

A single integrated system will allow for high competitiveness with traditional petroleum-based fuel production. Continuous innovation and adaptation of the selected bacterial and algal species in the lab will be key to achieving this goal.

These are the basic steps to really develop a program to make algae-gas-to-fuel and algae-biomass-to-fuel a reality. Everyone who is involved in Algae for Biofuels programs must realize that the complete domain of these technologies is the cornerstone of our algae industry success.

Vaccine Production in Algae through Genetic Engineering

By: Dr. John Kyndt ( Head Scientist of the Renewable Energy Program at Advanced Energy Creations Lab) and Dr. Aecio D’Silva.

Today vaccines are produced in three ways:

•         grow live bacteria or viruses
•         isolate killed bacteria or viruses
•         produce recombinant vaccines

The latter are being produced by genetic engineering of bacteria like E. coli, or yeast, or mammalian cells. The problems with vaccines is the high production costs (cost concern), the lack of vaccines that can be readily produced in case of sudden outbreaks (production scale concern), and difficulties in vaccination campaigns (safety concern).

Is possible to produce vaccines in Algae through genetic engineering? We need to design algae as ‘production factories’ for highly efficient production of vaccines of interest. Some of the advantages of Algae vaccines are:

•         Cheaper: No need for expensive mammalian cell lines.
•         Safer: Free of mammalian viruses or toxins
•         Efficient: algae resemble human cells more that bacteria
•         Edible: given the right research algae vaccines could eliminate the need for injections.

Since the vaccine market has opened up for ‘blockbuster’ production about 4-5 years back there have been several success stories, and market potential is still growing, even in troubled financial times.

For example Wyeth’s pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (Prevnar) had $ 1.5 billion sales in 2005; Merck’s HPV vaccine (Gardasil) was approved in 2006 for the European market and had second quarter sales of ~ $ 300 million in 2008 and is continuing to grow.

Other ‘blockbusters’ vaccines that are on the rise are for Meningitis, Pneumococcal disease and Shingles. Vaccine pricing is nor ranging about $300-$400 per treatment course for new vaccines. Established vaccine treatments range around $20-$40 per treatment.

Cumulative annual spending on a child in the first six years on vaccines have gone from under $ 10 in 1980 to ~ $ 400 in early 2005 (adjusted for inflation), which shows the continuing growth in the market. In addition, there is a continuous public push to improve the development of vaccines.

In high income countries, this is pushed by bioterrorism and pandemic flu scares. In lower income countries, this is mainly stimulated by public sector. On the forefront are global initiatives like the $ 1.5 billion investment from Bill & Melinda Gates foundation for developing the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (GAVI)).

A large media is pushing the so-called ‘Green vaccines’ campaigns, which are driven by public fear of vaccine adjuncts and manufacturing techniques. Answering these issues will require innovative and alternative research and development.

In order to make feasible  vaccine production we have to advance in the production media and delivery mechanisms (e.g. production in alternative organisms like Algae). We should  address following concerns:

•         Capacity constrains: Algae production is easily scalable
•         Quality issues: No live human viruses or toxins in production
•         Cost issues: Algae production cheaper than mammalian or CHO cell lines

In the initial research phase, we have to explore the production efficiency of several well established vaccines in Algae and determine the need for further research and time investment.

Once certain potential vaccine targets are established and proven to have market potential, we need to continue with larger scale production and purification. We must have all the equipment in place to perform and optimize the production, purification and quality testing of the targeted components.

This include small and large scale fermenters for optimizing cell growth and expression for production, and high-capacity protein purification systems, HPLC and immunoassays for quality control, and fractionation and packaging systems.

Still a long way to go, but it is worth and a great possibility to master the challenge and commercial opportunity of producing vaccines in algae through genetic engineering.

We Need a Super Algae

by Prof. Aecio D’Silva

Inarguably, we need a “Super Algae”

Without a doubt, Algae are the perfect biofuels feedstock. However, despite this truth, in my opinion it really depends also on the progress of Algae genomics to make algae biofuels a commercial reality in the near future. Unless we have winning “super-algae”, the rest of the process, i.e., efficient farming, low-cost nutrient sources, cost-effective harvesting methods, economic oil extraction and profitable processing techniques is only of secondary importance.

In recent years, our research team has been focusing on developing cost-effective, fast-growing, high lipid and/or carbohydrate content algae. The lack of these selected traits is the major stumbling block keeping algae from being a major contender in the biofuels world.

Just as geneticists did with corn, sugar-cane and soybean, we must develop algae strains with these desired traits and they need to be made available to the biofuels industry soon…Continue reading