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Flight Powered by Wood Chips a First for Alaska Airlines

Image: Flight Powered by Wood Chips a First for Alaska Airlines

An Alaska Airlines Boeing 737-800 painted with the airline's new tail logo and livery takes off above an Alaska plane with the old livery, Tuesday, Jan. 26, 2016, at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport in Seattle. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

By    |   Wednesday, 16 Nov 2016 09:06 AM

An Alaska Airlines flight powered by wood chips made a historic trip across country Monday as the first using renewable, alternative jet fuel produced with the help of the Washington State University-led Northwest Advanced Renewables Alliance.

The demonstration flight – from Seattle-Tacoma International Airport to Reagan National Airport in Washington, D.C. – used forest residuals, including the limbs and branches that remain after the harvesting of managed forests, according to a statement from Alaska Airlines and the university.

The fuel was a 20 percent blend of the sustainable biofuel, which officials said was chemically indistinguishable from regular jet A fuel, the statement noted.

"This latest milestone in Alaska's efforts to promote sustainable biofuels is especially exciting since it is uniquely sourced from the forest residuals in the Pacific Northwest," Joe Sprague, Alaska Airlines' senior vice president of communications and external relations, said in the statement.

"NARA's accomplishments and the investment of the U.S. Department of Agriculture provide another key in helping Alaska Airlines and the aviation industry reduce its carbon footprint and dependency on fossil fuels," he continued.

The Seattle Times reported that wood from Washington, Oregon, and Montana, including forests managed by Weyerhaeuser, the Muckleshoot Indian Tribe, and the Confederated Salish Kootenai Tribes, was used in the biofuel mix.

The biofuels company Gevo converted cellulosic sugars derived from wood waste into renewable isobutanol at its St. Joseph, Missouri, fermentation plant and its biorefinery in Silsbee, Texas, the newspaper said.

"This first of its kind flight demonstrates Gevo's commitment and ability to convert next generation cellulosic feedstocks into fungible hydrocarbons," Pat Gruber, Gevo's chief executive officer, said in a statement Monday.

"We are pleased that we had the opportunity to prove, through the NARA project, that cellulosic sugars from wood can be used to successfully make commercial jet fuel," Gruber continued.

The National Institute of Food and Agriculture gave a $39.6 million grant to support the biofuel initiative, noted the Alaska Airlines statement. The project started five years ago, comprised of 32 member organizations from industry, academia, and government laboratories, according to the statement.

"Today's flight comes after years of investments to help the aviation biofuels industry take off," U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell, from Washington, said in the Alaska Airlines statement. "By creating these sustainable biofuels, we will revitalize our rural agricultural communities, foster economic growth, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and cut our dependence on foreign oil while growing our competitiveness in global markets."

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An Alaska Airlines flight powered by wood chips made a historic trip across country Monday as the first using renewable, alternative jet fuel produced with the help of the Washington State University-led Northwest Advanced Renewables Alliance.
flight, powered, wood chips, alaska airlines
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2016-06-16
Wednesday, 16 Nov 2016 09:06 AM
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