'Readijet' biofuel created in Panama City to fuel military jets

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PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - Imagine a world in which the military's most elite jets are fueled by a product made from kitchen grease.

That's soon to be a reality, and it all originated in Panama City.

Chuck Red is the Vice President of Fuels Development with Applied Research Associates. The company's surprise finding came out of a government request ten years ago to convert plant oils into diesel fuel.

"ARA had been working with super critical water and super-critical technologies, very high temperature technologies for quite a while," Red said.

A couple of scientists decided to go to Sam's Club and pick up a five gallon container of soybean oil. They thought they could start the conversion process with that.

The group put the oil in a reactor, and according to Senior Vice President Glen McDonald, the product was nearly identical to sweet crude oil. From there, Redijet was born.

"It looks exactly like petroleum, the carbon emissions are a little bit less," McDonald said. "Ours is the only one that will be certified as the 100 percent complete replacement for petroleum."

The starting product has evolved from soybean oil to now, kitchen grease.

Seemingly super-scientific, but actually quite simple: The fats, oils and greases are converted into a crude oil, and then refined using a technique called hydro treating to develop it into a specified fuel type and sent out straight from its downtown facility.

"It's really beneficial to Panama City just that we can come up with the technology like this, and we're hoping that this can be the first of numerous applications for this technology that we can expand on in the future," McDonald said.

But before the future, comes the present. Readijet is undergoing testing in Washington, DC throughout the month of October.

"They're flying nine flights in an F-18 Hornet, the Navy is, and through that testing in a very highly instrumental jet, they're determining that our fuel performs like petroleum," Red said.

A culmination of ten years, eight scientists, and one company in Northwest Florida that hopes to change the way fuel is developed, for centuries to come.

The certification results from the Navy test flights are due within the next six months. According to ARA, Readijet is also being tested in Swedish military jets.