WSU Tri-Cities to lead national research on aviation biofuels

Washington State University Tri-Cities will be leading a new research group that is expected to help the aviation industry across the United States.

Researchers at 16 universities across the country will be working to create the next generation of jet fuel technology - biofuel, and researchers with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and WSU Tri-Cities will be leading this game-changing work.

For the past several years, airlines across the country have been searching for a better, more efficient way to fuel their airplanes.

Now, researchers in the Tri-Cities will be at the forefront of that effort.

"The Tri-Cities is, with this grant, going to usher in a new era of aviation transportation. One that is more sustainable economically, environmentally and efficiently" said Senator Maria Cantwell.

This morning, Senator Cantwell announced Washington State University Tri-Cities will be the headquarters of the brand new FAA Center of Excellence for Alternative Jet Fuels and Environment.

"The goal is to have the aviation sector succeed in the future. To endure in an environmentally and energy sustainable fashion" said Dr. Ralph Cavalieri, WSU professor.

Researchers will be working to create alternative, sustainable jet fuel technology.

They say biofuel will improve the air quality, reduce green house gases and it is cheaper than jet fuel - which is skyrocketing in price.

In 1998, aviation jet fuel hit a low of 51 cents a gallon, but ten years later, it hit $3.06 a gallon, and prices continue to climb.

"For Alaska Airlines for example, every penny drop in jet fuel prices bumps its bottom line $325 million a year. So you can see that a healthy airline industry critically depends on having an affordable fuel price for the future" said Sen. Cantwell.

Senator Cantwell and community leaders say the Tri-Cities is the perfect place to lead this research, because the area has a cutting edge laboratory, and local researchers have already been working on these types of developments.

"Mid-Columbia has got a lot of agriculture waste, so it's a hotbed for raw materials, we've got the scientific know-how here to do this, and so it just makes a lot of sense for this facility to be headquartered here" said Carl Adrian, TRIDEC.

Project leaders say whether you fly or not, this research will make an impact on our future.

"The public sector, the private sector and academia are going to address a portion of this planet's sustainability. It doesn't get more important than that" said David Suomi, FAA.

The FAA is committed to spending at least $40 million on this research over the next ten years.

Over the next few weeks, project leaders will start looking over the different project options to see what they want to pursue, then they will get to work.