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Sustainable Aviation Fuel Source Under Development for Major Air Line

David P. Smoot

Sustainable aviation fuel is the next step in the race to find renewable energy sources to power our global economy, and one company has taken the first big leap toward that goal: Northwest Advanced Bio-Fuels, LLC (NWABF). In a recently announced $2 million partnership with a major airline, they’re currently working on Phase 1 of a feasibility study to create that fuel from wood residue deposits and wood slash on forest floors (woody biomass). 

An Overlooked Source

The NWABF journey began in the White Mountains in the state of Arizona when Dave Smoot noticed that a little known but expanding industry was creating gasification systems and technologies using wood as a fuel source to make electricity.  This process is not a 100% “emission-free” process, unfortunately. Often, contractors and developers go as far as burying wood residue and residuals in the ground in landfills, which results in the wood changing chemically and creating methane which can be very explosive. In other cases, the wood is burned in huge piles. In Phoenix alone, approximately two million tons or more of greenwood waste from parks, golf courses, and homes go into landfills annually, which can create an environmental issue. Landfills are now being regulated to cease taking in and burying wood waste. What will happen to it next is anyone’s guess, but you can be sure a lot of it ends up in landfills and gets buried.  Wood is a cellulosic material, high in carbon and BTU’s, which makes it ideal for fuel. It’s cleaner than coal and plentiful in certain parts of the world. NWABF’s chosen technology is a closed system, eliminating these harmful emissions from the wood.

Where others saw a problem, Smoot and his Team recognized an opportunity to provide a solution. Many communities have their wood waste removed by yard and tree trimming services, who then pay a fee to deliver and bury that greenwood waste in local landfills, which local and state governments have begun to outlaw. Smoot saw a different way to address the issue. 

NWABF partnered with a world-class gasification company to use its technology, which will take that woody biomass that was headed for the landfills and turn it into sustainable aviation fuel. The gasification systems produce “synthetic” gas, similar to natural gas, by heating the wood to approximately 1300 to 1800 degrees Fahrenheit. This science is sophisticated and amazing. The synthetic gas is then cooled by processing it using proven technologies to produce sustainable designer aviation fuel with higher performance ratings, near-zero emissions, low sulfur, and C02, and turn it into the sustainable resource airlines are soon to be mandated to use. These technologies have been around for years but seldom were they ever used this way.

Providing Solutions for West Coast Operations

A major airline has invested $2 million in Phase 1 “Advanced Planning Study” of a biojet fuel production facility in Washington State, which is expected to be completed by the middle of November 2019.  The follow-up Phase 2 Front-end Engineering and Design Study will allow the Project’s world-class Engineering and Construction Partner to design and plan to construct the facility. The first delivery is planned for the end of 2023 and the airline plans to use this biofuel in their operations up and down the West Coast. 

Environmental Benefits

NWABF is uniquely aware of the concerns of Native American Tribal Nations as it relates to the thinning and forestry management of their millions of acres of timber throughout the United States and Alaska.  The Founder of NWABF, Dave Smoot, is a member of the Okmulgee Creek Tribe of Muskogee, OK. He states that “Tribes are more closely tied to {Mother Earth} than most non-Native Americans.” This has been a part of their culture since before our country was founded.  The forests assets the Tribes control are at the same risks as non-Native American forests as far as tree diseases, forest fires and other eco-hazards created by a lack of forestry management. Also, forestry management of Native American people’s lands is handled differently than state and federal lands.  Our Project will be located in Grays Harbor, WA and is adjacent to over 200,000 acres of forest owned by the Quinault Nation in WA state. We will bring woody biomass removal and usage creating valuable economic growth to the Quinault Tribal Nation while benefitting the environment in and around the Tribal forests and Grays Harbor County for years to come.”  

A Growing Trend

This airline is not the only airline interested in sustainable fuel, but they’re one of the first to make such a significant move as this. Airlines will be required to lower carbon footprints or face hefty fines. Tracking of carbon emissions will begin in 2021 and the mandates will take effect in 2026.

Dave Smoot, Head of Northwest Advanced Bio-Fuels, LLC said, “All of the woody biomass we will utilize in our operations is traceable from the time the tree was planted — that’s a seriously important statement — all the way to the point where it goes into our Project’s gasification system. The Project is utilizing proven technologies.  The Project will be fully guaranteed to perform and meet all the Federal Government’s sustainable aviation fuel standards, ASTM International specifications, and the airlines’ new carbon reduction standards worldwide.”

The need for renewable fuel sources for airlines certainly won’t be resolved in the near future, but a Project like Northwest Advanced Bio-Fuels LLC is developing will certainly go a long way to meet that need for the airline industry now and well into the future. 


David P. Smoot

David Smoot has an extensive background in Project Development, including the Financing and Technology Integration for those Projects. Mr. Smoot also held positions of upper management with leading companies in the Computer Software and Hardware industries, including the Financing and Leasing industries specifically related to those industries prior to moving into the renewable energy industry which morphed into renewable fuels. Smoot has created a turnkey solution model not yet seen in the industry.

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