The Future Of 'Motion Lotion' Remains An Important Concern
There are few more contentious issues facing GA right now as the question about what will eventually replace 100LL. There are few folks working hard to address the issue, but they all report that they're facing serious hurdles in not only perfecting their product but wading through the bureaucratic processes necessary to make their fuel a reality. ANN had the chance to spend some quality time with a number of the folks behind the Swift Fuel program, one of he more prominent players in the race to replace 100LL -- and the conversations were intriguing -- and educational.
According to Swift Enterprises, Ltd., they have developed an unleaded 100LL replacement fuel, called 100SF. They claim that it exceeds the energy content and octane number of conventional 100LL. The new fuel contains two chemical components that when mixed together meet or exceed most performance parameters of 100LL. Because of this, 100SF requires minimal engine modification to run in the current general aviation fleet. 100SF does not abstract water, which means that standard general aviation practices of draining a sample of fuel and checking for water still hold true.
The components that make up 100SF are bio-derivable (sugars, cellulose, and lignin). Using sorghum as an example, 89 gallons of 100SF can be produced from 1 ton of sorghum biomass. The fuel contains no alcohol or oxygenates, but ethanol and ethanol plants can be used in the production process. The uniqueness of this approach is the fact that the Swift process does not produce alcohol, but rather hydrocarbons already present in petroleum fuels, from biomass. The existing infrastructure of the bio-ethanol industry can be used to produce 100SF; the major process equipment is the same.100SF can be produced from any organic matter that contains sugars or cellulose components. The components derived from biomass are reacted to form pure hydrocarbons. 100SF is comprised of two specific hydrocarbon components which ensure 100SF constancy from batch to batch.
Chemical production is the defining step in the overall program. The laboratory syntheses of these compounds have been verified and this data has been used to construct a pilot plant. Concurrently, engine tests have been run, and will continue to be run, to verify the performance, safety, emissions, and long term stability parameters of 100SF. The general aviation fuel market is estimated at 350,000,000 gallons per year. Ten small plants, distributed around the United States, would cover the general aviation market, and assure a stable price. Projected costs are below current production costs for petroleum due to the lower number of process steps and the independence on biomass “type.”
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