Employment
News & Publications
Centers of Excellence

National Alternative Fuels Center®

The EERC's National Alternative Fuels Center® (NAFC®) builds collaborative relationships with industry to overcome technical, economic, and social barriers to commercial utilization of alternative fuels.

Technical Expertise

Established initially in 1988 as the NAFC through the support of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the National Alternative Fuels Center is committed to:

  • Formulating, demonstrating, and commercializing clean-burning coal and bio-based fuels.
  • Improving production processes for ethanol and biodiesel from traditional and lower-value feedstocks.
  • Developing value-added products and bio-based chemicals from agricultural materials.
  • Working with the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and aviation industry to demonstrate aviation-grade ethanol.
  • Blending ethanol and biodiesel with aviation fuels to produce certified cleaner-burning fuels.
  • Improving performance and emissions of ethanol- and biodiesel-blended gasoline and diesel fuels.
  • Determining fuel use effects on health and the environment.

Recent Activities

The EERC has established a strong network of technical expertise to advance alternative fuels production, blending, demonstration, and commercialization. Recent activities include:

  • Development and demonstration of the first-ever 100% renewable fuel from crop oils and algae.
  • Demonstration of innovative coal- and biomass-to-fuel technologies.
  • Renewable fuel process development, demonstration, and economic assessment.

Partnerships, Education, and Outreach

NAFC has coordinated activities with more than 40 government, research, and industrial partners. It represents the state of North Dakota in the multistate Governors’ Biofuel Coalition (GBC).

Accomplishments

First to Produce 100% Renewable Jet Fuel

In partnership with the U.S. Department of Defense and several other corporate partners, the EERC was the first to produce a domestic 100% renewable jet fuel from several varieties of vegetable oil and algae oil. An innovative technology concept that uses catalytic conversion processing will eliminate the need for high-energy processing. The resulting fuel meets all specifications for a strategic tactical military fuel that can surpass commercial specifications for quality and cost.

Coal-to-Liquid Fuels

The EERC has developed gasification technologies to convert coal and other alternative feedstocks such as municipal solid wastes and cellulosic biomass to liquid fuels. Several pilot-scale gasification systems which provide unique demonstration capabilities are currently in operation at the EERC. These systems are equipped with all necessary support systems for testing a variety of advanced concepts, including hot-gas cleanup, hydrogen production, and Fischer–Tropsch liquid fuels production.

Tactical Fuels for the U.S. Military

The EERC is working to develop advanced tactical fuels for the U.S. military, which includes developing JP-8 and other liquid fuels from alternative feedstocks. JP-8 is the U.S. military’s choice for a single-fuel concept which significantly enhances the overall logistics of military operations in both times of peace and war. The EERC is also working on producing high-pressure, on-demand hydrogen from JP-8 and other available fuel feedstocks for use in standard refueling platforms or mobile applications for battlefield scenarios.

Butanol Production

The EERC developed a technology with Syntec Biofuel, Inc. (Syntec), to convert a wide variety of biomass and waste into biobutanol. The core process utilizes Syntec’s high-performance catalyst technology in conjunction with an upgrading process exclusively licensed from the EERC Foundation. Butanol has a high purity and energy level and can be used in a variety of ways, including as a fuel in internal combustion engines.

Renewable Fertilizer Production

The EERC developed an electrochemical process for producing urea and other nitrogen-based fertilizers. The process will eliminate the use of natural gas as a requirement for fertilizer production by using electricity generated from the wind instead of fossil fuel. This is a major opportunity for extracting value from wind energy without the need for constructing expensive and hard-to-permit electricity transmission infrastructure.

Aviation-Grade Ethanol

The EERC developed a draft ASTM International (ASTM) specification for the first-ever aviation-grade ethanol (AGE) and presented the specification for initial ASTM review. This response to the FAA request was developed in collaboration with members of the ASTM Ethanol Aviation Fuel Development Task Force and the University of North Dakota Odegard School of Aerospace Sciences. AGE is an ethanol-based alternative to lead-containing aviation gasoline.

Fuel Effects on Human Health

In partnership with the American Lung Association of Minnesota (ALAMN) and Flint Hills Resources, NAFC analyzed the carbon dioxide emission impact of switching from gasoline to E85, which comprises 85% ethanol and 15% gasoline, revealing positive impacts advantageous to human health. These data were publicized by ALAMN to promote E85 utilization and contributed to increased Minnesota E85 consumption sixfold in 2005.