FAA Awards Biofuels Contracts to Virent, WI CAPCO Company

Wisconsin CAPCO program company Virent was recently awarded biofuels contract by FAA:

Virent Inc. of Madison said Friday it is one of eight firms awarded contracts by the Federal Aviation Administration to develop plant-based jet fuels.

The FAA awarded $7.7 million in contracts, including the $1.5 million award to Virent, formerly known as Virent Energy Systems.

The companies were selected to help the FAA develop alternative fuels known as “drop-in” biofuels that can be used without changing aircraft engine systems or fueling infrastructure.

The companies will develop the biofuels from sources such as alcohols, sugars, biomass and organic materials known as pyrolysis oils.

“The FAA award gets us one step closer to the commercialization of our jet fuel,” said Randy Cortright, Virent’s co-founder and chief technical officer. “The development and analysis accomplished under this award dovetails perfectly with our goals of meeting the jet fuel requirements as required by the American Society for Testing and Materials.”

Including Virent, firms in the Midwest won the largest contracts awarded by the FAA.

The largest of the eight grants was awarded to LanzaTech Inc. of Roselle, Ill. Other contracts worth at least $1 million were awarded to Velocys Inc. of Plain City, Ohio; and UOP, a Des Plaines, Ill.-based subsidiary of Honeywell International Inc.

The two-year award to Virent from the FAA will support creation of 100 gallons of jet fuel that will be tested by the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio, said company spokeswoman Kelly Morgan.

Virent said in October that its jet fuel from plant sugars had passed a round of testing by Air Force researchers at the base. The firm is developing renewable fuels using a chemical conversion process that was developed at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

In September, Virent received a $13.4 million U.S. Department of Energy Award to support conversion of corn stover to jet fuel. Corn stover consists of the stalks left over from corn harvesting. Using stover in biofuels would represent a way to move the biofuels industry beyond the food-vs.-fuel challenges that dog conventional ethanol from corn.

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