News Releases

Murray, Cantwell Announce New Center of Excellence Funding

Apr 19 2012

Research hub authorized in new FAA bill would propel research and development of aviation biofuels and other alternative aviation fuels

(Washington, D.C.) – Today, U.S. Senators Patty Murray (D-WA), Chair of the Senate Transportation, Housing, and Urban Development (THUD) Appropriations Subcommittee, and Maria Cantwell (D-WA), chair of the Aviation Subcommittee of the Senate Commerce Committee, announced the inclusion of funding in the Fiscal Year 2013 Senate THUD Appropriations Bill to establish a new Center of Excellence in Alternative Jet-Fuel Research in Civil Aircraft. Cantwell wrote language in the recently passed Federal Aviation Administration Reauthorization bill that authorizes the creation of the Center of Excellence. In February, Cantwell toured a Tri-Cities biofuel lab and called on the FAA to move forward on creating the new aviation biofuel research hub.

The THUD language included by Murray directs the FAA to establish the new Center of Excellence by identifying an educational and research institution after a competitive process.

“This investment in biofuel production research is an excellent opportunity for Washington state,” said Sen. Murray. “I was proud to include the funding in the THUD Appropriations Bill and believe this Center will not only help ensure Washington state remains a national leader in renewable energy research and development, but will create jobs and economic growth, foster energy independence, and promote critical environmental sustainability.”

“Washington state is uniquely positioned to lead the aviation biofuel industry,” Cantwell said. “We have the entire biofuel supply chain in Washington state, from the growers, research institutions and businesses that grow, develop, refine, and use aviation biofuel. We fought hard to get this new biofuel research center authorized in the recently enacted FAA reauthorization because green jet fuel means jobs. This new center of excellence will jumpstart the research and development of 21st century fuel to power airplanes and drive innovation.”

With its agricultural land to grow biomass and cutting-edge labs to research and develop new ways to create biofuels, the Pacific Northwest is poised to play an important role in future biofuels research efforts.

Washington state is home to leaders in the research, development and use of aviation biofuels. Notable successes include:

  • In July 2010, Boeing, Alaska Airlines, the operators of the region’s three largest airports – Port of Seattle, Port of Portland and Spokane International Airport, and Washington State University launched Sustainable Aviation Fuels Northwest. The coalition is the nation’s first regional stakeholder effort to explore the opportunities of aviation biofuels.
  • In September 2011, a research team led by WSU received $40 million USDA grant to convert closed timber mills into bioenergy development centers. The UW also received a $40 million USDA grant to research the use of sustainably grown woody energy crops to produce bio-gasoline and renewable aviation fuel.
  • Imperium Renewables of Grays Harbor, Washington and Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) are collaborating on a catalytic process being developed at the lab that converts biomass-based alcohols into renewable drop-in jet fuels.
  • In November 2011, Alaska Air conducted 75 commercial flights over a two-week period in which each plane used a 20 percent mixture of aviation biofuel.