The Problem Solver

A new alternative fuels technology center may have all the answers
By Luke Geiver | October 25, 2011

After a trip to Washington, D.C., to speak with a number of people about alternative fuels, Robert Franick, manager at the Southwest Research Institute (SwRI), decided the idea of developing a “one-stop shop” for alternative fuel issues ranging from emissions to fuel evaluations was a good one. “The more people I talked to,” he says, “the more I realized there are a number of organizations that can do emissions testing, others that can take concepts from the laboratory to commercialization, and others that can run fuel analyses.” But “there are not a lot of organizations that can do all three,” he says—and this is why Franick is excited about the formation of the International Alternative Fuel Technology Center in Texas.

For those seeking help with a biodiesel-related issue, Franick says the IAFTC can take a client’s ideas for biodiesel from conception, to pilot operation and even to commercialization, in part, due to the chemistry and chemical engineering division at the facility. In addition to previous work with biodiesel, the staff at SwRI has also worked with shale, tar sands, coal, cellulosic ethanol and synthetic paraffins. “We can help them work through their problems,” he says, “and that is the key; regardless of what the problem is, we probably have a way of helping them solve the issue.”

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