Turning organic waste into sustainable aviation fuel

Hydrothermal liquefaction can convert food waste, manure, or municipal waste wate residues into renewable bio-oil to be used as aviation fuel

In November 2020, the Bioenergy Technologies Office, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, Washington State University, and Commercial Aviation Alternative Fuels Initiative hosted a workshop on production of sustainable aviation fuel using a technology known as hydrothermal liquefaction. Hydrothermal liquefaction utilizes moderate temperatures and pressures to convert a variety of feedstocks, include organic waste, into renewable bio-oil.

Like fossil-derived crude, this bio-oil contains a mixture of fuel molecules and after processing and separations can produce gasoline, diesel, and jet fuels. And this technology has demonstrated that it is compatible with a variety of organic wastes such as municipal wastewater residues, food waste, manure, amongst others.

The workshop included perspectives from around the globe-showcasing several high-profile pilot- and demonstration-scale projects that are expected to come online in the coming years. These include the Tofte, Norway, as well as facilities in Calgary and Vancouver, Canada. The workshop discussed a variety of technical barriers related to this technology including pre-processing and homogenization of these feedstocks, managing aqueous and gaseous streams, and quantifying the ecosystem services from this process, amongst others.

The workshop also discussed the process for achieve fuel qualification for aviation fuels to ensure that aviation OEMs will be comfortable with the fuel performance associated with these fuels.

The workshop hosts will be working to develop a roadmap to commercialization of this process.