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Conaton speaks on AF biomass fuel use at open house

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Misty D. Slater
  • 11th Wing Public Affairs
Undersecretary of the Air Force Erin Conaton spoke to media about the milestone of the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds flight demonstration team's first use of a biomass fuel blend in two of their jets here during the 2011 Joint Service Open House May 20.

The Air Force has a vested interest in the use of biofuels since it's the largest user of energy in the Department of Defense, the undersecretary said.

According to the USAF Alternative Aviation Fuel Initiative, the military is the largest single consumer of petroleum products in the United States and the Air Force alone uses more than two billion gallons of aviation fuel each year.

Right now, biomass fuel is about 10 times the cost of JP-8, the current military aviation jet fuel in use, Ms. Conaton said.

In these days of constricted budgets, the fuel the Air Force will buy needs to be cost competitive. When the biofuel industry is able to provide the quantity of fuel the Air Force requires at a good price, "we will be ready to buy from them," the under secretary said.

Major Aaron Jelinek, the Thunderbirds' lead solo pilot, said that he noticed no difference in flight between the biomass fuel blend and straight JP-8.

The biomass fuel blend consists of a 50/50 blend of JP-8 and a hydrotreated renewable jet, or HRJ, biomass-derived fuel. The biomass fuels are derived from three different feedstocks: camelina, which is a plant seed oil; beef tallow, which is animal fat; and various waste oils and greases.

In addition to the Thunderbird's flight, the Air Force has demonstrated operations using the HRJ fuel blend in several other aircraft, to include the A-10 Thunderbolt II, the F-15 Eagle, the  C-17 Globemaster III and the F-22 Raptor. Air Force engineers are on track for the entire fleet to be certified using the HRJ fuel blend by late 2012.