Cobalt partners with US Navy to make jet fuel from biobutanol

November 3, 2010 |

In California, Cobalt Technologies announced a partnership with the U.S. Navy to develop technology for the conversion of biobutanol into full performance jet and diesel fuels. Under the agreement, n-biobutanol produced by Cobalt will be converted to bio-jet and biodiesel fuels using technology developed at the U.S. Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division (NAWCWD) in China Lake, CA.  More specifically, the combined team will optimize dehydration chemistry for the conversion of bio-n-butanol to 1-butene, followed by oligomerization of the biobutene into jet fuel, based on a process developed at NAWCWD.

Additional work will focus on converting the biobutanol into butyl ether, which the NAWCWD has shown can be mixed with n-butanol and other compounds to create a viable drop-in diesel fuel replacement. In addition, Cobalt will have an option to obtain an exclusive license to commercialize process improvements, made under the CRADA, for the production of all military and civilian transportation fuels.

The Digest’s Take: The Cobalt Technologies demonstrates why biobutanol (and in this case, “normal” or n-biobutanol) is one of the most promising biofuels in development. Especially of interest in this case is the opportunity to make renewable jet fuel at an affordable cost, in relatively small volumes, from a diverse set of feedstocks including wood biomass and sugarcane bagasse.

It makes an interesting complement to the success of companies like Amyris, Virent and LS9, who have the capability to produce jet fuel from cane sugar. Geographies of interest for production – think Pakistan, or Hawaii for sugar cane bagasse. For wood biomass, think the Pacific Northwest. Its another option, also, for pulp & paper manufacturers looking for effective bolt-on technologies – here, with the Navy, is a strong end-use partner and customer.

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