Connecticut Will Pioneer Alternative Jet Fuel Center

Aug 9, 2013

Connecticut is known for its aerospace industry, and it also has some pretty nice farming country. The two might not seem to have a lot in common, but new study hopes to use waste from one to power the other. 

Mike Paine knows a lot about garbage. His company, Paine's Recycling and Rubbish Removal is a third generation family business out of East Granby. "My brother and I who run the businesses, started on the back of the truck, and we used to originally take everything to pigs, to a family farm."

Food scraps and other organic waste used to be made into animal feed - now that waste, plus other biomass that can be grown on family farms may be turned into jet fuel. "To be able to take that material or discards and turn it into fuel is pretty exciting. A little nerve wracking to potentially put it into airplanes, but I'm sure they'll do it right!"

Connecticut is the recipient of a new $100,000 federal grant to plan for an alternative biomass fuel plant in north central Connecticut. The technology behind this initiative is already well established. Solena Fuels, based in Washington, D.C. has already built similar plants in many parts of the world.

Solena's Dennis Miller says pretty much any organic waste will do. "We're using just a waste that can come from the green portion of municipal solid waste, for example, like Mike's delivering to land fills. And so by using that it doesn't have to go to landfills so the local community's avoiding methane emissions, which are very serious in terms of climate change."

The feasibility study will be overseen by the Connecticut Center for Advanced Technology. CCAT's president Eliot Ginsburg says Connecticut is a natural fit for this type of synergy between biomass and aviation. "We've got folks who are in solid waste, we've got the airlines and the industry, we've got the Bradley Development League, those who are up in the region who are looking to create economic development for that region. We've got the capacity, when we think about it, to bring a lot of things together."

The money comes from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. USDA energy policy advisor Todd Campbell says he hopes this study and the potential new plant could provide a model for other rural areas. "Most of the feedstock is going to reside in the rural areas, so a conversion technology, whether it's for biofuels, whether it's renewable energy, whether it's renewable chemicals and bio-based products, are going to help to increase the price of commodity biomass in rural America. So not only is it benefiting the community through construction, through permanent jobs, but also for the farmers and foresters who are providing feed stocks, it's going to create opportunity."

The grant was announced Monday by Congressman John Larson who says the construction jobs and the projected new 150 permanent jobs that could be created are another benefit. It's another way for us to take our waste and turn waste product back into energy in a source that we can utilize to decrease our dependency on foreign oil and use environmentally sound ways of doing it. So it becomes both a jobs bill, a science bill and it's better for the environment as well."

Larson says he'll be monitoring the study as it goes forward in coming months.