Biofuels down the road
Biofuels down the road (Photo credit: Argonne National Laboratory)

This article source belongs to: Green Aviation

The “World Biofuels Markets” to which Green Aviation was a media partner saw its largest ever attendance from the aviation sector during 13-15 March 2012. This annual conference and exhibition covers all transportation sectors and traditionally Aviation has occupied a small side room for half a day. This year Aviation was given a two day schedule and attendance was varied but we estimate peaked at more than a hundred people. We’ll produce a fuller write up in due course but in summary it was very encouraging to see further new technologies, methods and projects being proposed, especially to produce sustainable biofuels from non-feedstock sources such as Jatropha, algae and various wastes.

One of the most ambitious projects remains the initiative between British Airways and Solena to produce a waste-to-biofuels plant in East London, or nearby, with several potential sites identified in the area. BA expects planning permission to be granted and for work to start in 2013 with an 18 month build completion timescale. The investment will be $350 million and initially produce enough fuel per day to fill 80 tanker trucks. This represents around 2% of BA’s fuel needs in the London area and this initial batch will be used exclusively at the nearby London City airport. Despite the huge investment the business case is made on the existence of the waste used avoiding a $100 per tonne landfill tax.

Elsewhere a Dutch company SkyNRG is supplying several airlines’ trials of biofuel flights with waste oils from catering use and then converted to biofuel. Lufthansa has a partnership with Finnish company Neste and is using a 50% biofuel / kerosene mix on all flights of one dedicated A320 aircraft between Frankfurt and Hamburg for several months, with no adverse events and no apparent differences in engine performance or exhaust deposits.

All this increased activity, and more, bodes very well for the future of sustainable biofuels in aviation, but the crux of the matter is the same for all airlines – how to get sufficient quantities of biofuel and at the right price? Given the technical approval (ASTM D7566) of the 50% biofuel / kerosene mix last year there has certainly been a noticeable increase in interest and investment, and a forecast in the UK Sustainable Aviation Roadmap that by 2050 sustainable biofuels will contribute an 18% reduction in aviation emissions. Personally I am more optimistic as more projects and investments come on-stream it could lead to a snowball effect. Additionally, not only can airlines adopt biofuels to mitigate the EU ETS and other such emissions capping schemes in the future, but I suggest it is increasingly important to develop a strategy of weaning off fossil fuels as an energy security policy and to gain a better price predictability and stability to offer a significant competitive advantage; one major US carrier has adopted exactly such an approach.

Article source: GreenAviation

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