Honeywell in on the hunt for more green

  • 18-Jul-2011 03:03 EDT
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The Honeywell UOP Green Jet Fuel process technology is being used to produce biofuels for testing from sources such as camelina, jatropha, algae, and tallow.

It has been conveyed loud and clear for at least three Paris Air Shows that the aerospace industry is committed to going green. To some extent, the message was so well put that some companies’ communications teams no longer felt the need to use the word green in every other sentence.

Green’s meaning is inherent to those in the know, especially with the engineers who are tasked with the goal of perpetually generating ideas for systems that ultimately will contribute to fewer and fewer emissions (green as in the environment) and more and more efficiencies (green as in money) on current and future aircraft programs.

That said, the word green still has meaning, and as such, sometimes it is difficult not to use it. In that context, Honeywell’s use of the word in its camelina-derived Green Jet Fuel makes sense.

Camelina is a dedicated energy crop that avoids the stigma of other biofuel sources because it does not compete in the food chain. It can be grown in rotation with wheat and on marginal land. Honeywell has produced more than 700,000 gal of its Green Jet Fuel from sustainable, inedible sources such as camelina, jatropha, and algae for use in commercial and military testing.

Honeywell made the most of its presence at this year’s Paris Air Show to fly its Gulfstream G450 from New Jersey to Le Bourget with a 50/50 blend of Green Jet Fuel and petroleum-based jet fuel powering one of the aircraft’s Rolls-Royce engines.

According to the company, it was the first aircraft to fly from North America to Europe with such a blend, as well as the first business jet to be powered by a biofuel.

“This first biofuel trip across the Atlantic, along with more than a dozen other commercial and military test flights conducted to date, demonstrates that Honeywell Green Jet Fuel more than meets the demanding requirements for air travel,” said Jim Rekoske, Vice President and General Manager of Renewable Energy and Chemicals for Honeywell’s UOP.

In each of the 16 biofuel flights conducted to date, Honeywell says that its biofuel met all specifications for flight on military and commercial platforms without any modification to the aircraft or engines.

“Now that the initial ASTM approval is in place, we are one step closer to commercial use that will help the aviation community reduce its carbon footprint and dependence on crude,” said Rekoske.

Honeywell’s process to produce Green Jet Fuel was originally developed in 2007 under a renewable military jet fuel contract from DARPA. The process is based on common hydro-processing technology used to produce transportation fuels and results in an aviation biofuel that can be blended seamlessly with petroleum-based fuel.

Based on life-cycle analyses, Honeywell says using Green Jet Fuel on the flight saved approximately 5.5 t of net CO2 emissions compared to the same flight powered only by petroleum-based fuel. The feedstock for the flight to Le Bourget was grown and harvested by Sustainable Oils, a U.S.-based producer of camelina-based technology.

“With more than 500,000 gallons produced, camelina-based renewable jet fuel has been the most widely tested of any feedstock,” said Tom Todaro, CEO of Sustainable Oils. “It’s the only sustainable feedstock that is widely and commercially available today.”

It is not just its work in biofuel technology that Honeywell stands behind in terms of green emissions and efficiencies, with the company also having engineers devoted to “advanced avionics and energy-efficient jet engine innovations to address [cost and efficiency] needs,” said Carl Esposito, Vice President of Strategy and Product Management for Honeywell Aerospace.

One example of other Honeywell technologies slanted toward deeper shades of green involves a joint venture announced at Paris with Safran for an “electric green taxiing system.” The companies expect the systems to be installed on new narrow-body-sized aircraft, and retrofitted onto existing planes, beginning in 2016.

Honeywell cites industry figures that indicate globally short-haul aircraft consume 5 million t of fuel per year during taxi operations and internal figures that show the new taxiing system will save customers up to 4% in total fuel consumption.

The new system will use an aircraft’s auxiliary power unit (APU) generator to power electrical motors in the aircraft’s main wheels without using main engines during ground operations. Equipped aircraft will be able to “push back and go” more quickly, thus reducing gate and tarmac congestion.

Other benefits beside fuel savings that the new taxiing system will offer is the elimination of tugging and associated equipment costs, as well as reducing both brake wear and taxes based on carbon emissions, according to Honeywell. Power electronics and system controllers allow the pilot to control the speed, brakes, and direction of the aircraft throughout ground transportation.

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