Tomorrow’s challenges in fuel chemistry


Renewable fuels need to solve tomorrow’s challenges as well as today’s. We use fuel chemistry and process engineering to find new ways to make fuels and energy. We also try to find better ways to use the fuels that we have.

Aviation – we need to be renewable and sustainable

If we want to keep flying, there’s no realistic alternative to jet fuel. Fuel use in aviation is increasing every year, and today very little of that is renewable.

Powering an airplane needs hydrocarbon fuel that meets strict standards and has special properties. It is possible to make biofuel that meets those standards, but it’s hard to do so economically (jet fuel is, relatively, very cheap). Most renewable jet fuel today comes from food crops like palm oil, which is transported long distances to large refineries. We’ve been working for some time on a process to make sustainable, low-cost renewable jet fuel. Our strategy is to use the same waste feedstocks as the most sustainable biodiesel – waste cooking oil, waste animal fat, oil from food waste. Because we use an intermediate which is already of fuel quality, we can get high yields of jet fuel. This means that we have a low capital cost per gallon, which makes the fuel more economic.

We’ve demonstrated this process at pilot scale, with support from the UK Government (Department of Energy & Climate Change) and the European Union (Horizon 2020). We’re now in a pre-commercialization phase and plan to have a demonstration facility operating in 2018.

Biofuels – making the process better

Biofuels are already part of life in many countries. Diesel and petrol (gasoline) from the pump usually contain a percentage of biodiesel or bioethanol. The processes for making those have been around for some time. In fact, our sister company Green Fuels has sold biofuel equipment in more than 50 countries over almost 15 years. Part of our job at GFR is to find ways to make those processes better, so that we can make biofuels more efficiently, more economically and with less environmental impact. We understand the challenges that biofuel producers face and use our skills in chemistry and engineering to help the industry. Areas of interest include new catalyst systems for biofuels, catalyst-free systems, and ways to use feedstocks that are outside the reach of today’s chemistries.