Murray works for jet biofuels center money; National center co-led by WSU in the Tri-Cities

Annette Cary, Tri-City HeraldJune 3, 2014 

Sen. Patty Murray

A new Federal Aviation Administration research center, co-led by Washington State University in the Tri-Cities, is in line to receive $5 million in federal funding for 2015.

The center, which also received money this year, is in the initial stages of being set up, said Ralph Cavalieri, WSU associate vice president for alternative energy and the director and technical leader for alternative jet fuels for the FAA Center of Excellence at WSU.

Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., used her influence as chairwoman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development to include money for the center in the 2015 federal transportation and housing bill.

The bill passed through the subcommittee Tuesday with bipartisan support and should be considered by the full Appropriations Committee on Thursday.

The FAA announced in September that WSU and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology had been named to lead a new Center for Excellence in Alternative Jet Fuels and Environment. Several other universities also have contracts to participate in the center.

Since then, the FAA has distributed information on 20 research projects it is interested in, and WSU will be the lead on the first project, Cavalieri said.

It will coordinate work across the nation to develop an analysis of the supply chain for alternative jet fuel, from raw materials to fuel distribution.

Another step forward for the new center is expected soon, with the start of a nationwide search for a faculty member and assistant to be based in the Tri-Cities, Cavalieri said.

MIT is taking the lead on environmental issues, after leading a previous FAA Center of Excellence with that focus, and WSU is concentrating on jet fuel development and creating a supply and refining infrastructure for fuel. The goal is to develop an aviation biofuel that can be made commercially available at competitive prices.

The FAA has set a goal to improve National Airspace System energy efficiency by at least 2 percent a year and has set a target of 1 billion gallons of alternate jet fuel use by 2018.

Among WSU's assets is the Bioproducts, Sciences and Engineering Laboratory, or BSEL, on the WSU Tri-Cities campus.

The lab is a partnership between WSU and the Department of Energy's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Richland.

Supporters of BSEL hope that being a key part of an FAA research partnership will attract research projects from other federal agencies and industry product testing to BSEL.

Money for the FAA center requires a match, some of which is expected to come from the industry. State money also will be used.

WSU requested and received $500,000 in state funding for the state fiscal year that starts July 1, which also will count toward the match. It also received a half-year's state funding after the center was announced.

Murray fought to include funding for the new center in the U.S. Senate spending bill for two years in a row before the new center was announced.

It also received $5 million for this year, although the appropriation was not made until more than three months into the current fiscal year.

-- Annette Cary: 509-582-1533; acary@tricityherald.com; Twitter: @HanfordNews

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