May 18, 2020
Staff Accomplishment

PNNL and LanzaTech Receive Award for Ethanol-Based Jet Fuel

IRI Achievement Award honors “outstanding accomplishment”

Jet fuel

PNNL’s Rich Hallen holds a sample of jet fuel upgraded from ethanol made from industrial waste gases.

Andrea Starr | PNNL

The PNNL team that made history, working with industrial partner LanzaTech, by creating the first jet fuel from industrial waste gas will receive a 2020 IRI Achievement Award for its breakthrough. The Innovation Research Interchange annually honors an outstanding accomplishment in individual creativity and innovation that contributes broadly to the development of industry and to the benefit of society. 

The innovative conversion process fueled a Virgin Atlantic commercial passenger flight from Orlando to London in late 2018 and, in late 2019, a new plane purchased by All Nippon Airways, which flew from Seattle to Tokyo. Using a combination of biotechnology (LanzaTech) coupled with catalysis (PNNL), the team proved carbon can be recycled and used for commercial flight.  

Partnership enabled carbon recycling

Chicago-based LanzaTech developed a unique carbon recycling technology that uses industrial waste gases—like those from steel mills. Bacteria then convert the carbon-rich gases to fuels and chemicals like ethanol. PNNL developed a unique catalytic process and proprietary catalyst to upgrade the ethanol to jet fuel, technically known as alcohol to jet synthetic paraffinic kerosene. PNNL’s catalyst removes oxygen from the ethanol, in the form of water, and then combines the remaining hydrocarbon molecules to form chains large enough for jet fuel, without forming aromatics that lead to soot when burned.

The PNNL-LanzaTech team will deliver a presentation about their innovation at the IRI 2020 virtual annual conference May 15 in Philadelphia. 

PNNL is a long-time member of IRI, formerly known as the Industrial Research Institute—a worldwide network of cross-industry leaders driving innovation and new growth.

PNNL’s jet fuel development team includes Rich Hallen, Alan Cooper, Karthi Ramasamy, Yunhua Zhu, retired staff members John Frye, Jr., Mike Lilga, and former staff member Karl Albrecht. Corinne Drennan, John Holladay, and retired staff members Rick Orth and Eric Lund were part of the commercialization team.

Published: May 18, 2020