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May 20th, 2012:

Aviation and military biofuels: new thinking on finance, fuels


An F/A-18 Super Hornet from Air Test and Evaluation Squadron 23

The US Navy, and a group of international airlines, struggle to foster sustainable, affordable aviation biofuels — the Navy for warfighting, the airlines for carbon-fighting.

New thinking in finance may finally clear the runways for take-off.

While most of the United States was focused on the 2012 Super Bowl, the CSPAN television network snuck a revealing interview from Brian Lamb with Secretary of the Navy, former Mississippi governor (and ambassador to Saudi Arabia) Ray Mabus, onto the airwaves last Sunday night.

A transcript of the complete interview is here.

In the interview, Mabus revealed the influence which his tenure as US ambassador to Saudi Arabia had on his thinking regarding the US military and its energy platforms.

US Navy Secretary Ray Mabus’ perspective on energy security, warfighting

“Oil, energy, it’s something I brought into this job [as Secretary of the Navy] and how we really shouldn’t be as dependent on foreign sources of our energy as we are today and it was driven home very loud and clear not only in Saudi Arabia, but in that part of the world.

Mabus restated his five-point plan for the Navy’s transition to new energy by 2020.

“We are too dependent on either potentially or actually volatile places on earth to get our energy. Now we’re susceptible to supply shocks and even if we’ve got enough, we’re susceptible to price shocks. I mean when the Libya situation started and the price of oil went up $40 a barrel, that was almost a billion dollars additional fuel bill for the U.S. Navy.”

Mabus pointed out that the oil shocks cost the US Navy in terms of readiness and operation. “The only place we’ve got to go get that money is operations or training, so our ships steam less, our planes fly less, we train our sailors and Marines less.”

His focus, he insists, is not on the adoption of renewable energy for reasons of reducing carbon emissions, but US naval preparedness. “We’re moving away from it for one reason, that is it makes us better war fighters. We would never give these countries the opportunities to build our ships, our aircraft, our ground vehicles, but we give them a vote in whether those ships sail and whether those aircraft fly or those ground vehicles operate when we allow them to set the price and the supply of our energy and we’ve just got to move away from it.”

But he did point to the US Navy’s role in moving the country to new energy platforms, throughout its history. “The Navy has led this country in changing energy for a long time now, ” he said.

The naysayers

“In the 1850s, we went from sail to coal. In the early part of the 20th century, we went from coal to oil. In the 50s, we pioneered nuclear. We were the first service, first people to ever use nuclear power for transportation. And now, we’re changing it again. And every single time, from the 1850s to today, you’ve got nay sayers, they say you’re trading one form of energy that you know about, that’s predictable, that’s affordable for another that’s not and you just shouldn’t do it. And every single time, they’ve been wrong and I’m absolutely confident they’re going to be wrong again.

Mabus restated the Navy’s commitment, specifically, to biofuels for marine and aviation fuel. “We just made the largest purchase of biofuel, we think in American history. We’ve certified all our aircraft, every aircraft the Navy and Marine Corp fly for biofuels. We’re doing the same thing with our surface fleet today. We’ve got an F-18, the Hornet, that’s flown 1.7 times the speed of sound using a 50/50 mix of biofuel and aviation gas.

“We’re looking at second and third generation biofuels made from algae, made from things like camelina, which is an inedible part of the mustard family and the main source of this big biofuel purchase came from inedible grease that came from Tyson foods, from cooking chicken basically. So we’re – we don’t have a specific technology in mind, we just need the energy.

The Obama Administration’s $510M commitment to fostering commercial-scale biofuels for military use

The centerpiece of the Navy’s fuels strategy in the near-term: a Green Strike Group, powered by renewable diesel-electric engines, nuclear power and aviation biofuels, is able to operate independent of fossil fuel supply line threat or disruption.

The group contains a supercarrier; a carrier air wing of 65 to 70 aircraft; Ticonderoga class, Aegis guided missile cruisers; a destroyer squadron; two attack submarines, and a combined ammunition, oiler and supply ship.

The Defense Production Act and aviation biofuels

To ensure that a commercial market for advanced biofuels developed, the US Government recently invoked the Defense Production Act of 1950, issuing a presidential finding the advanced biofuels were total to national security.

The DPA authorizes the President and Congress to directly invest in the commercialization of vital defense technologies that would otherwise not reach (or too slowly reach) commercial-scale production at affordable prices. In a joint announcement by DOE, USDA and the US Navy, each branch of government is making available $170 million in previously authorized funding, and expects that figure to be matched at least 1:1 by the private sector, to provide $1 billion towards commercialization of advanced biofuels.

However, the US House has voted not to approve the Navy’s use of existing appropriations to fund its commitment, and the DOE has not yet won approval for its commitment, which would be funded out of its 2012 budget request.

New ideas for the financing aviation biofuels

Here at the Digest, we continue to see the struggles of early-stage biofuels companies to final commercial-scale scale-up of their technologies. The venture capital community generally funds the pilot and demonstration stages of development – and project finance is generally available for the second commercial-scale project. But who funds the first commercial projects – especially if the US governments DPA strategy fails?

Our take: get creative. For example, why could airlines, that are urgently seeking affordable aviation biofuels, provide the financing, in the form of advanced payments for aviation biofuel orders?

Here’s how such a scheme might work. (In our example, we are using a $400 million, 38 million gallon plant producing in-spec aviation biofuels at $4 per gallon. Actual project capital requirements may vary.)

Step 1. A consortium of 10 airlines each provide $30 million, which will ultimately pay for 7.5 million gallon initial orders at $4 per gallon, for each airline. The cash is provided in the form of a three-year construction loan, payable at the airline’s own cost of capital. Investors in the advanced biofuels company provide the project equity of around $100 million.

Step 2. Working with the USDA, the project secures a 15-year, affordable feedstock supply; the airlines provide 15-year off take contracts, with the US Navy providing a backup off take guarantee on the full faith and credit of the United States.

Step 3. A 38 million-gallon advanced aviation biofuel facility is constructed using the airline financing and project equity.

Step 4. Following completion, start-up and demonstration of the facility – essentially, taking out the technology risk – the project is refinanced at commercially-viable rates using the traditional project lending sources, or the bond market.

Step 5. The airline’s debt portion is converted to pre-paid orders, and the 38 million gallon facility delivers 75 million gallons of fuel to the airline buyers over a two-year period.

Step 6. Following completion of step four, the project moves to a “business as usual” relationship with its buyers.

Would such a step work? Bright financial minds can say better. But it does provide a financing vehicle without a US government loan guarantee, or direct US investment – and delivers commercial-scale aviation biofuels to the market within five years. Such a scheme could be repeated to achieve the scale necessary to meet military and aviation needs, and could be duplicated in other countries.

Military and Aviation Biofuels Markets day at the Advanced Biofuels Leadership Conference

We’ll be discussing creative financing, fuel development, supply chain and operations in the Digest’s annual Advanced Biofuels Leadership Conference, where we have just announced our speaker line-up for Military and Aviation Biofuels Markets, our special one-day session planned in collaboration with the Commercial Aviation Alternative Fuels Initiative (CAAFI) and Airlines for America

Sinopec unveils massive plans for aviation biofuels production in China

Meghan Sapp | March 1, 2012

In China, Sinopec wants to produce commercial scale biofuels for airplanes and has sought permission to do so from the country’s national aviation regulator. The company expects it could produce a third of the national aviation fuel demand, 12 million metric tons, from biofuels by 2020.

Sinopec produces about three-quarters of fossil aviation fuel used in China annually. PetroChina plans to build a refinery for aviation biofuels by 2014 that would produce 60,000 tons annually.

Green Car Congress: Aviation future


[Due to the increasing size of the archives, each topic page now contains only the prior 365 days of content. Access to older stories is now solely through the Monthly Archive pages or the site search function.]

New series of test flights for Honeywell Green Jet Fuel produced from optimized oilseed feedstock and at higher blend ratios

April 18, 2012

UOP LLC, a Honeywell company, announced that Honeywell Green Jet Fuel (earlier post) will be used for the first comprehensive test program using a new optimized industrial oilseed biofeedstock specifically designed for biofuel production. The test flights, to be done in Canada with the National Research Council of Canada (NRC) and Agrisoma Biosciences Inc., will also feature in-flight collection of emissions by a trailing aircraft, allowing for later evaluation of the Green Jet Fuel’s emissions performance.

The program will also test blends of Honeywell Green Jet Fuel at higher ratios than previous demonstration flights, which have been conducted using a 50/50 ratio of biofuel and jet fuel produced from petroleum.

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Qatar Airways looking to take up to a 10% stake in alcohol-to-jet company Byogy, along with off-take agreement

April 10, 2012

Bloomberg reports that Qatar Airways Ltd. plans to take up to a 10% stake in alcohol-to-jet (ATJ) fuel company Byogy Renewables Inc., coupled with an off-take agreement. (Earlier post.) In March, Byogy announced a joint venture with Qatar Airways as well as other partnerships including a feedstock agreement with Brazilian sugar cane ethanol producer Itapecuru Bioenergia and fuel off-take terms with Brazil’s Azul Airways.

The ATJ process broadly consists of four main steps: dehydration of the alcohol; oligomerization; distillation; and hydrogenation. Alcohol is attractive as a feedstock for the production of renewable jet fuel partly because the steps required are currently in use at commercial scale in the petrochemical industry. Key to the cost-effectiveness of ATJ is reducing the production cost of the alcohol, as well as of the ATJ process itself.

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Virent produces high quality renewable jet and gasoline from Virdia’s cellulosic sugars

March 26, 2012

Virent and Virdia, formerly HCL CleanTech, have successfully converted cellulosic pine tree sugars to drop-in hydrocarbon fuels within the BIRD Energy project, a joint program funded by the US Department of Energy, the Israeli Ministry of National Infrastructure and the BIRD Foundation. (Earlier post.)

The project, which commenced in January 2011, successfully demonstrated that Virdia’s deconstruction process generated high-quality sugars from cellulosic biomass, which were converted to fuel via Virent’s BioForming process. Virentused Virdia’s biomass-derived sugars to produce gasoline and jet fuel, the latter being sent to the US Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) for analysis where it passed rigorous testing.

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Airbus joins Australian consortium developing pyrolysis pathway for renewable jet fuel

March 21, 2012

Airbus has joined a consortium that includes Virgin Australia, Renewable Oil Corporation, the Future Farm Industries CRC, Canadian biofuels company Dynamotive Energy Systems Corporation and GE to study a new pathway for the production of sustainable aviation fuels from mallee trees using fast pyrolysis and subsequent bio-oil upgrading. (Earlier post.)

Eucalyptus mallee trees, grown in Western Australia’s wheat belt, are sustainably harvested and converted to a feedstock. Mallee is indigenous to Australia and is well adapted to the environment. It is a suitable sustainable crop because it helps return salt-affected land to a productive state.

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Naval Air Warfare Center awards contract to Albemarle for processing Cobalt Technologies’ bio n-butanol to renewable jet fuel using Alcohol-to-Jet process

March 20, 2012

Overview of the NAWCWD alcohol-to-jet process. Source: NAWCWD. Click to enlarge.

The Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division (NAWCWD), China Lake has awarded a contract to Albemarle Corporation to complete the first biojet fuel production run based on bio n-butanolprovided by Cobalt Technologies. For this production run, Albemarle will use NAWCWD alcohol-to-jet (ATJ) technologies (developed by Michael Wright, Benjamin Harvey and Roxanne Quintana, earlier post) to process Cobalt’s bio n-butanol into renewable jet fuel at its Baton Rouge, La. processing facility.

Cobalt converts non-food feedstock such as woody biomass into renewable butanol for both chemicals and fuels, including jet fuel. The combined science team from Cobalt and the NAWCWD focused on scaling and optimizing the dehydration chemistry for the conversion of bio n-butanol to 1-butene, followed by oligomerization of the bio-butene into jet fuel, based on the process developed at NAWCWD in China Lake, CA. (Earlier post.)

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MIT/Stanford team optimizes shape of Busemann-type supersonic biplane to reduce drag, fuel consumption, and sonic booms

Conceptual drawing of a supersonic biplane in flight. Credit: Tohoku University. Click to enlarge.

MIT assistant professor of aeronautics and astronautics Qiqi Wang and his colleagues Rui Hu, a postdoc in the Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics, and Antony Jameson, a professor of engineering at Stanford University, have optimized the aerodynamic shape of a Busemann-type supersonic biplane to reduce the wave drag at supersonic cruise speeds.

This decreased drag would produce less of a sonic boom, and also reduce the fuel consumption of the plane, according to Wang. A paper on the group’s work has been accepted for publication in the AIAA Journal of Aircraft. An earlier version of the paper was presented at the 49th AIAA Aerospace Sciences Meeting in 2011.

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NASA seeking proposals for Green Propellant technology demonstrations

February 09, 2012

NASA has issued a Broad Agency Announcement (BAA, NNM12ZZP03K) seeking technology demonstration proposals for green propellant alternatives to the highly toxic fuel hydrazine. As NASA works with US companies to open a new era of access to space, the agency seeks innovative and transformative fuels that are less harmful to the environment.

Hydrazine is an efficient and ubiquitous propellant that can be stored for long periods of time, but is also highly corrosive and toxic. It is used extensively on commercial and defense department satellites as well as for NASA science and exploration missions. NASA is looking for an alternative that decreases environmental hazards and pollutants, has fewer operational hazards and shortens rocket launch processing times.

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OSU researchers working to improve CFD software for simulation and evaluation of turbomachinery

December 27, 2011

Simulations of pulsing vortex generating jets, a type of flow control device, created on Ohio Supercomputer Center systems.Vorticity iso-surfaces are colored by velocity magnitude. Credit: Chen/OSU. Click to enlarge.

Researchers at the Ohio State University led by Dr. Jen-Ping Chen are working to improve the computational fluid dynamics (CFD) software that engineers use to simulate and evaluate the operation ofturbomachinery.

Turbomachinery—pumps, fans, compressors, turbines and other machines that transfer energy between a rotor and a fluid—is especially instrumental in power generation in the aeronautic, automotive, marine, space and industrial sectors. For engine designers to achieve the most efficient propulsion and power systems, they must understand the physics of very complex air-flow fields produced within multiple stages of constantly rotating rotors and stators.

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Licella signs MoUs with Virgin Australia and Air New Zealand on renewable aviation fuels

December 14, 2011

Australia-based Licella, a wholly owned subsidiary of Ignite Energy, has signed memoranda of understanding (MoUs) with Virgin Australia and Air New Zealand to examine the development and commercialization of a process to convert woody biomass into sustainable aviation biofuel.

Licella has developed a process using a continuous flow catalytic hydro-thermal reactor (Cat-HTR) with supercritical water which converts woody materials and other biomass into a high quality bio-crude oil. The Licella bio-crude, which has an energy density of 34-36 MJ/kg and oxygen content of around 10 wt% or less, can then be refined into drop-in fuels.

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Virent secures $1.5M FAA award to advance renewable jet fuel certification

December 06, 2011

Virent has received a $1.5-million award from the Federal Aviation Administration and U.S. Department of Transportation, through the Volpe National Transportation Systems Center to advance the readiness of Virent’s drop-in jet fuel. (Earlier post.)

This award supports the generation of 100 gallons of Virent jet fuel for the purposes for fit-for-purpose testing at the Air Force Research Lab (AFRL) at Wright-Patterson AFB. The lab will measure criteria such as seal swell properties, density, boiling points, freeze points, and other qualities which, when met, will help Virent’s fuel move through ASTM certification. The duration of the award is two years.

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Honeywell’s UOP receives $1.1M FAA contract to demonstrate technology for conversion of isobutanol from Gevo to aviation biofuels

December 02, 2011

UOP LLC, a Honeywell company, was awarded a $1.1 million contract from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) via the US Department of Transportation’s Volpe Center to develop and demonstrate technology that will produce renewable jet fuel from isobutanol supplied by Gevo, Inc. (Earlier post.) The award was one of eight such from the FAA, totaling $7.7M.

Isobutanol can be produced from a variety of starch and sugar feedstocks, including corn. In the future, inedible sources, such as corn stover, bagasse and wood residues, could also be used as feedstocks. In September, Gevo received a $5-million grant from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) for the development of biojet fuel from woody biomass and forest product residues. (Earlier post.)

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LanzaTech receives $3M contract from FAA for alcohol-to-jet project; one of 8 awards worth total of $7.7M

December 01, 2011

Different pathways to jet fuel. Alcohol-to-jet (bottom) is currently being explored by an ASTM Working Group. Source: Byogy. Click to enlarge.

LanzaTech has received a US$3-million contract from the United States Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), through the Department of Transportation’s John A. Volpe Center, to accelerate commercial availability of alcohol-to-jet (ATJ) renewable drop-in aviation fuel. (Earlier post.)

The award was the largest of eight contracts worth a total of $7.7 million announced by the FAA to help advance alternative, environmentally-friendly, sustainable sources for commercial jet fuel.

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Global Bioenergies and LanzaTech to collaborate to assess the bioproduction of isobutene from carbon monoxide

November 23, 2011

Global Bioenergies S.A. and LanzaTech Ltd, two industrial biology companies, have begun a feasibility study to examine whether Global Bioenergies’ artificial isobutene pathway (earlier post), can be functionally transferred into LanzaTech’s carbon monoxide-using organism (earlier post).

Isobutene is a widely used intermediate chemical used for the production of fuel additives, rubber and solvents. In a paper earlier this year describing a new mixed oxide catalyst for the direct conversion of bio-ethanol to isobutene, researchers from the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) noted that trimerization of isobutene produces tri-isobutenes, which can be used as an additive for jet fuel. Isobutene dimerization and hydrogenation to produce isooctane is used to increase the octane number of gasoline, and isobutene also reacts with alcohols such as ethanol to form ethyl tert-butyl ether (ETBE), a gasoline additive. (Earlier post.)

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MIT study finds including non-CO2 emissions from synthetic aviation fuel in lifecycle analysis of climate impact can lead to decrease in relative environmental merit; need for a holistic analysis framework

Aviation climate change impacts pathway. Credit: ACS, Stratton et al. Click to enlarge.

A new study by researchers at MIT has found that factoring the non-CO2 combustion emissions and effects into the lifecycle of a Synthetic Paraffinic Kerosene (SPK) aviation fuel can lead to a decrease in the relative environmental merit of the SPK fuel compared to conventional jet fuel.

As a result, they suggest in a paper published in the ACS journal Environmental Science & Technology, climate change mitigation policies for aviation that rely exclusively on relative “well-to-wake” lifecycle greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions as a proxy for aviation climate impact may overestimate the benefit of alternative fuel use on the global climate system.

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DoD report concludes use of renewable fuels contributes to national security interests, but at a price penalty

November 08, 2011

Increased use of renewable fuels by the US Department of Defense (DoD) contributes to US national security interests, achieves Service energy security goals, and offers some limited military utility, according to a new report released by DoD.

However, the report also finds that the projected supply of drop-in renewable fuels will not be sufficient to meet anticipated DoD demand for renewable jet fuel products, and that price premiums for drop-in renewable fuels and the budgetary implications associated with meeting renewable fuel goals may be considerable. Further action by DoD and Congress could help to promote renewable jet fuel production and address the price premiums necessary for the Services to achieve their renewable fuel goals, it concludes.

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Alaska Airlines launching 75 flights powered by 20% biofuel blend in the US; SkyNRG the fuel supplier

November 07, 2011

Alaska Airlines will fly 75 commercial passenger flights in the United States powered by a biofuel blend, starting this Wednesday. Two flights will leave Seattle on 9 Nov. for Washington, D.C. and Portland, Oregon. Alaska Airlines and its sister carrier, Horizon Air, will continue to operate select flights between Seattle and the two cities over the next few weeks using a 20% blend of renewable biofuel.

The fuel was supplied by SkyNRG, an aviation biofuels broker, and made by Dynamic Fuels, a producer of next-generation renewable, synthetic fuels made from used cooking oil. The synthetic fuel made by Dynamic Fuels—a $170 million joint-venture between Tyson Foods Inc. and Syntroleum Corp. (earlier post)—meets aviation and military safety, sustainability and performance standards.

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GE Aviation Common Core System for the 787 Dreamliner marks debut of open architecture approach for this type of commercial aviation system

October 28, 2011

The open architecture common core system (CCS) that houses third-party modules. Source: GE Aviation.

On Wednesday, ANA made the first commercial flight with one of Boeing’s new 787 Dreamliners (earlier post)—a 4-hour hop from Tokyo to Hong Kong. The Dreamliner marks a number of visible—and many more not so visible—innovations in design, materials, flight systems, propulsion and environmental performance. (On Wednesday, the UK Guardian ran a poll asking if “all airlines should be forced to fly the most environmentally friendly plane possible—such as the Dreamliner.” Almost 56% of respondents so far have said “yes”.)

GE Aviation Systems is a key supplier on the 787, including the common core system (CCS) and the landing gear actuation, indication and nose wheel steering systems. (GE also is one of the engine suppliers for the 787). The CCS is the backbone of the Boeing 787’s computers, networks and interfacing electronics, and provides the primary computing environment for the Dreamliner. The Dreamliner CCS marks the debut of an open architecture approach to this critical system, notes George Kiefer, vice president of Avionics, North America, GE Aviation Systems.

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Purdue study projects that under likely adoption rates, use of biojet fuel alone will not meet aviation emissions reduction targets for 2050; the need to go above 50% blends

October 16, 2011

Uncertainty range of the aviation GHG emissions under the High Oil price scenario (the most optimistic for biojet adoption), given in a box plot depicting the minimum, quartile, and maximum values. Credit: ACS, Agusdinata et al. Click to enlarge.

A study by a team from Purdue University has found that, at what it determined as likely adoption rates, the use of drop-in biojet fuel (produced from US feedstocks) at up to a 50:50 blend with petrojet fuel alone would not be sufficient to achieve the aviation emissions reduction target of 50% below 2005 levels by 2050.

In a paper published in the ACS journal Environmental Science & Technology, they report finding that in 2050, under a high oil price scenario assumption, GHG emissions can be reduced to a level ranging from 55 to 92%, with a median value of 74%, compared to the 2005 baseline level. The study combines lifecycle analysis of different biojet pathways with a model of the supply and demand chain of biojet involving farmers, biorefineries, airlines, and policymaker, considering the factors that drive the decisions of actors (i.e., decision-makers and stakeholders) in the lifecycle stages.

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LanzaTech and Swedish Biofuels partnering with Virgin Atlantic on waste gas-to-ethanol-to-jet fuel process; targeting commercial use by 2014

October 11, 2011

Virgin Atlantic announced the development of a low-carbon, synthetic jet fuel kerosene produced from industrial waste gases with half the carbon footprint of the standard fossil fuel alternative in partnership with LanzaTech and Swedish Biofuels.

Virgin Atlantic will be the first airline to use this fuel and will work with LanzaTech, Boeing and Swedish Biofuels towards achieving the technical approval required for using new fuel types in commercial aircraft. A demo flight with the new fuel is planned in 12-18 months, with commercialization targeted for 2014.

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NASA awards Green Flight Challenge Prizes; electric-powered winners fly 200 miles on .5 gallon fuel equivalent per passenger

October 03, 2011

the Pipistrel Taurus G4 in flight. Click to enlarge.

NASA has awarded the largest prize in aviation history, created to inspire the development of more fuel-efficient aircraft and spark the start of a new electric airplane industry. (Earlier post.) The first place Green Flight Challenge prize of $1.35 million was awarded to team of State College, Pa, for the Taurus G4. The second place prize of $120,000 went to team eGenius, of Ramona, Calif.

The winning aircraft had to fly 200 miles (322 km) in less than two hours and use less than one gallon of fuel per occupant, or the equivalent in electricity. The winning aircraft also had to take off from a distance of less than 2,000 feet to clear a 50-foot obstacle and deliver a decibel level below 78 dBA at full power takeoff, as measured from a 250-foot sideline.

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Gevo awarded $5M to develop cellulosic jet fuel; separate contract to supply alcohol-to-jet drop-in biojet fuel to USAF

September 28, 2011

Gevo, Inc. received a $5-million grant from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) for the development of biojet fuel from woody biomass and forest product residues. The award is a portion of a $40-million grant presented to the Northwest Advanced Renewables Alliance (NARA), a consortium led by Washington State University (WSU). (Earlier post.)

Separately, Gevo has also been awarded a contract by the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) to supply biojet fuel to the US Air Force (USAF). The contract, worth a possible total of $600,000, provides that Gevo will supply the USAF with up to 11,000 gallons of “alcohol-to-jet” (ATJ)-based jet fuel, which will be used to support engine testing and a feasibility flight demonstration using an A-10 aircraft.

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USDA awarding $136M to five major research projects focused in part on developing cellulosic drop-in aviation fuels

US Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced five major agricultural research projects aimed at developing regional, renewable energy markets, generating rural jobs, and decreasing America’s dependence on foreign oil. Altogether, the five-year program will deliver more than $136 million in research and development grants to public and private sector partners in 22 states.

University partners from the states of Washington, Louisiana, Tennessee, and Iowa will lead the projects, which focus in part on developing aviation biofuels from tall grasses, crop residues and forest resources. Vilsack made the announcement with partners from private industry, research institutions, and the biofuels industry at the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport.

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Airbus forecasts demand for more than 27,800 aircraft over the next 20 years; global passenger fleet to double; the role of megacities

September 19, 2011

Airbus foresees strong ongoing demand for commercial aircraft. According to its latest Global Market Forecast (GMF), by 2030 some 27,800 new aircraft will be required to satisfy future market demand. The combined value of the more than 26,900 passenger aircraft (above 100 seats) and more than 900 new factory-built freighters forecast by the GMF is US$3.5 trillion.

As a result, by 2030 the global passenger fleet will more than double from today’s 15,000 aircraft to 31,500. This will include some 27,800 new aircraft deliveries of which 10,500 will be needed for replacing older less fuel efficient aircraft. The trend towards larger aircraft will continue, according to Airbus, in order for the aviation sector to keep pace with future growth in demand.

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New catalytic decarboxylation process for converting fatty acids to drop-in hydrocarbon fuels; initial focus on biojet

September 14, 2011

Overview of AliphaJet process. Click to enlarge.

AliphaJet, Inc., a collaborative venture between SynGest Inc. and Unitel Technologies, has says it has developed and successfully demonstrated a cost-effective catalytic method for making jet biofuel from renewable products such as plant and animal triglycerides and/or fatty acids. The development of the AliphaJet process was led by Dr. Ravi Randhava in collaboration with Dr. Paul Ratnasamy at the University of Louisville.

AliphaJet’s BoxCar process first converts crude fat feedstock into fatty acids and glycerol. The fatty acids are then put through catalytic decarboxylation (CDC) to produce bio paraffins. The CDC process is capable of processing unsaturated as well as saturated fatty acids into true hydrocarbons. The process does not change the type of saturation; however, when necessary to create fuels from unsaturated fats, introduction of a small amount of hydrogen during the catalytic decarboxylation step will yield a saturated hydrocarbon suited for fuels.

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SG Biofuels teams With JETBIO and aviation stakeholders to deploy Jatropha for biojet fuel in Brazil

SG Biofuels (SGB) has teamed with JETBIO, leader of a multi-stakeholder initiative including Airbus, the Inter-American Development Bank, Bioventures Brasil, Rio Pardo Bioenergia, Air BP and TAM Airlines, to accelerate the production of crude Jatropha oil as a source for aviation biojet fuel in Brazil.

SGB will work with Bioventures Brasil, an energy crop project developer, and other program partners on a multi-phased program leading to the deployment of 75,000 acres of intercropped Jatropha plantations in the Central-west region of Brazil using SGB’s JMax hybrid seeds. The crude Jatropha oil produced will be converted into biokerosene to supply customer airlines.

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Honeywell’s UOP breaks ground on integrated biorefinery project in Hawaii for drop-in gasoline, jet and diesel from fast pyrolysis of biomass and catalytic upgrading

August 30, 2011

UOP LLC, a Honeywell company, has begun construction in Hawaii of a demonstration unit that will convert forest residuals, algae and other cellulosic biomass into renewable drop-in transportation fuels via a rapid pyrolysis process integrated with a catalytic upgrading process.

Backed by a $25-million US Department of Energy (DOE) award, the Honeywell UOP Integrated Biorefinery will utilize rapid thermal processing (RTP) technology (earlier post) to convert biomass into a pourable, liquid bio-oil (pyrolysis oil). This bio-oil will then be upgraded to gasoline, jet and diesel fuels using catalytic hydroprocessing technology being developed by UOP.

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Airbus expanding fuel cell R&D with autonomous taxiing demonstrator, partnership with Parker Aerospace

July 06, 2011

A German Aerospace Center (DLR)-designed fuel cell technology demonstrator has been installed in the DLR-owned A320 fuel cell test aircraft at the Airbus site in Hamburg to explore the potential of fuel cell technology as supply for electric power in aircraft ground operation.

This is Airbus’s second fuel cell technology announcement within the space of a few weeks, the first coming in late June with the company’s partnering with Parker Aerospace on fuel cell R&D. Airbus says it considers fuel cell technology as a key contributor to meeting the ACARE (Advisory Council for Aeronautics Research in Europe) 2020 goals, which foresee the reduction of CO2 emissions by 50%, NOx emissions by 80% and noise by 50%. (Earlier post.)

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Virgin Australia, Dynamotive and partners developing renewable aviation biofuel from mallees trees using a fast pyrolysis pathway

Australia-based airline Virgin Australia is partnering with Renewable Oil Corporation (ROC), Dynamotive Energy Systems Corporation and Future Farm Industries Co-operative Research Centre (FFI CRC) to develop a sustainable aviation biofuel that also has benefits for the Australian farming community and the environment.

The consortium plans to use fast pyrolysis and subsequent bio-oil upgrading technology developed by Dynamotive (earlier post) to process mallees, a type of eucalyptus that can be grown sustainably in many parts of Australia, into renewable jet fuel. The partnership brings together companies with special expertise in growing, harvesting and processing feedstock into aviation fuel to support the development of a full-scale commercial plant in Western Australia.

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ASTM aviation fuel standard now specifies bio-derived components

July 01, 2011

Renewable fuels can now be blended with conventional commercial and military jet (or gas turbine) fuel through requirements in the newly issued edition of ASTM D7566-11, Specification for Aviation Turbine Fuel Containing Synthesized Hydrocarbons. The revised standard was approved 1 July 2011. (Earlier post.)

Through the new provisions included in ASTM D7566, up to 50% bio-derived synthetic blending components can be added to conventional jet fuel. These renewable fuel components, called hydroprocessed esters and fatty acids (HEFA), are identical to hydrocarbons found in jet fuel, but come from vegetable oil-containing feedstocks such as algae, camelina or jatropha, or from animal fats called tallow. The standard already has criteria for fuel produced from coal, natural gas or biomass using Fischer-Tropsch synthesis.

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Gevo to proceed to jet engine testing of its renewable jet fuel from isobutanol with approval of ASTM alcohol-to-jet task force

June 29, 2011

Gevo, a renewable chemicals and advanced biofuels company, recently announced that it had presented positive test results from fit-for-purpose testing of its renewable kerosene produced from isobutanol to ASTM’s alcohol to jet (ATJ) task force (D02J006 Alcohol to Jet TF).

The ATJ task force consists of technical experts from a wide stakeholder group including jet engine manufacturers, governmental bodies, fuel manufacturers, third-party testing laboratories, academics and airframe manufacturers investigating the requirements for a third major pathway to renewable drop-in jet fuel: the conversion of alcohols. Two first two synthetic fuel pathways approved by ASTM are gas-to-liquids and hydroprocessed oils. (Earlier post.)

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KLM launching regular commercial flights Amsterdam – Paris on biofuel blend in September; Dynamic Fuels producing the bio-kerosene (HRJ) from used cooking oil

June 26, 2011

Dynamic Fuels will useSyntroleum’s Bio-Synfiningprocess to hydrotreat the used cooking oil to produce renewable jet. Source: Syntroleum. Click to enlarge.

In September, KLM Royal Dutch Airlines will launch more than 200 flights being operated on a bio-kerosene (hydroprocessed renewable jet, HRJ) blend between Amsterdam and Paris. The biofuel will beproduced from used cooking oil by Dynamic Fuels at its Geismar plant and supplied by SkyNRG, the consortium launched by KLM and North Sea Group and Spring Associates in 2009.

Dynamic Fuels is a 50:50 joint venture formed in 2007 between Syntroleum Corporation and Tyson Foods for the production of synthetic fuels from animal fats and greases. (Earlier post.) The plant usesSyntroleum’s Bio-Synfining Technology to produce the renewable fuels from feedstocks produced or procured by Tyson Foods.

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Neste Oil joins two research projects to scale up algae output for NExBTL renewable fuels; commits to 2020 targets for aviation biofuels

June 23, 2011

Neste Oil is continuing its research into the potential for using algae oil as a feedstock for producing NExBTL renewable diesel by taking part in two research projects starting this summer to test various methods for growing algae in outdoor conditions. The goal of the projects in the Netherlands and Australia will be to build up experience on the suitability of different types of algae for use in industrial-scale production under a variety of conditions.

Separately, the company committed itself to a European Aviation Biofuels Flightpath introduced in Paris aimed at increasing the use of aviation biofuels to 2 million tons annually by 2020. (Earlier post.)

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Siemens and partners build first aircraft with series hybrid electric drive

Siemens Drive Technologies Division supplied the integrated drive train for the first series-hybrid electric aircraft. Source: Siemens. Click to enlarge.

Siemens, Diamond Aircraft and EADS have built an aircraft equipped with a series hybrid electric drive system. The partners are presenting the two-seater motor glider DA36 E-Star at the Paris Air Show Le Bourget 2011 (until 26 June) in daily flight shows. The aircraft was built to test the hybrid electric drive concept.

The technology, which is intended for later use also in large-scale aircraft, will cut fuel consumption and emissions by 25%, compared to today’s most efficient aircraft drives, according to Siemens.

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European Commission, Airbus, airlines and biofuel producers launch initiative targeting 2M tonnes of aviation biofuel annually by 2020

The European Commission’s services, in close coordination with Airbus, leading European airlines (Lufthansa, Air France/KLM, & British Airways) and key European biofuel producers (Choren Industries,Neste Oil, Biomass Technology Group and UOP), have launched a new industry-wide initiative to try to speed up the commercialization of aviation biofuels in Europe. Labelled “Biofuel Flightpath”, the initiative is a roadmap with clear milestones which targets an annual production of two million tonnes of sustainably produced biofuel for aviation by 2020.

The biofuel will be produced in Europe from European sourced feedstock material and has the backing of The European Commissioner, Günther Oettinger, Airbus CEO Tom Enders, major European airlines, and a number of advanced biofuel producers. Lufthansa and British Airways from the airlines; and Neste Oil and UOP/Honeywell from the biofuel producers were members of the core team that developed the Biofuel Flightpath.

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American Airlines to be launch customer for Boeing ecoDemonstrator program; flight testing a range of new technologies to reduce fuel consumption, emissions and noise

June 22, 2011

American Airlines will be the launch customer for Boeing’s evolutionary ecoDemonstrator Program, in which a Boeing Next-Generation 737-800 aircraft will be used to flight test and accelerate the market readiness of emerging technologies to help reduce fuel consumption, carbon emissions and community noise.

The American Airlines 737-800, and a twin-aisle airplane that will be announced at a later date, are serving as the flight test component for the US Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) Continuous Lower Energy Emissions Noise (CLEEN) program, along with other technologies developed by Boeing and other industry partners.

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7 airlines sign letters of intent to negotiate purchase of biomass-derived jet fuel from Solena Fuels; up to 16M gallons of fuel per year

June 20, 2011

A core group of airlines has signed letters of intent with Solena Fuels, LLC for a future supply of jet fuel derived exclusively from biomass to be produced in northern California. Solena’s “GreenSky California” biomass-to-liquids (BTL) facility in Northern California (Santa Clara County) will utilize post-recycled urban and agricultural wastes to produce up to 16 million gallons of neat jet fuel (as well as 14 million gallon equivalents of other energy products) per year by 2015 to support airline operations at Oakland (OAK), San Francisco (SFO) and/or San Jose (SJC). (Earlier post.)

The project will divert approximately 550,000 metric tons of waste that otherwise would go to a landfill while producing jet fuel with lower emissions of greenhouse gases and local pollutants than petroleum-based fuels.

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Boeing forecasts $4T global market for 33,500 new airplanes over next 20 years; Asia Pacific represents largest market by value

June 16, 2011

Boeing sees the Asia Pacific region dominating travel growth. Source: Boeing. Click to enlarge.

Boeing forecasts a $4-trillion market for new aircraft over the next 20 years with a significant increase in forecasted deliveries. That’s according to the Boeing 2011 Current Market Outlook (CMO) released in Paris. The company’s annual commercial aviation market analysis foresees a market for 33,500 new passenger airplanes and freighters between 2011 and 2030.

Passenger traffic is expected to grow at 5.1% annual rate over the long-term and the world fleet is expected to double by 2030. The single-aisle market will continue to see strong demand around the world and is expected to increase its share of the market, according to Boeing. Fleet composition will change significantly by 2030 with single-aisle jets making up 70% of the total, up from 62% in 2010.

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ASTM committee votes to approve biojet fuel in blends up to 50%; final issuance of spec expected by August

June 10, 2011

An ASTM committee has voted to approve the addition of a new bio-derived jet fuel annex to the alternative jet fuel specification D7566 (Standard Specification for Aviation Turbine Fuel Containing Synthesized Hydrocarbons). The new annex details the fuel properties and criteria necessary to control the manufacture and quality of this new fuel, now referred to as “Hydroprocessed Esters and Fatty Acids” (HEFA) fuel, to ensure safe aviation use.

With the approval of the alternative jet fuel specification for HEFA—sometimes referred to as “hydroprocessed renewable jet” (HRJ) fuel—hydroprocessing of plant oils becomes another pathway for production of alternative jet fuels. Once issued by ASTM, the revised specification will enable use of HEFA fuels from biomass feedstocks such as camelina, jatropha or algae, in combination with conventional jet fuel up to a 50% blend.

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Study details viable pathway to develop sustainable aviation biofuels industry in Pacific Northwest; hydroprocessing of natural oils seen as the most immediate opportunity

May 25, 2011

Biomass resources of the US, with the Northwest circled. Source: SAFN report, via NREL. Click to enlarge.

The Pacific Northwest has the diverse feedstocks, fuel-delivery infrastructure and political will needed to create a viable biofuels industry capable of reducing greenhouse gases and meeting the future fuel demands of the aviation industry, according to a newly-released study by Sustainable Aviation Fuels Northwest (SAFN). Creating an aviation biofuels industry, however, will depend upon securing early government policy support to prioritize the aviation industry in US biofuel development, the report continues.

Noting that no single feedstock or technology pathway is likely to provide sustainable aviation fuel at the scale or speed needed to achieve industry goals, the report focuses on a portfolio of options, including different conversion technologies and sources of potentially sustainable biomass, including oilseeds, forest residues, solid waste, and algae.

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CSIRO report concludes that sustainable biojet fuel industry is achievable for Australia/New Zealand

Possible e biomass to liquid fuel refining process pathways. Source: CSIRO. Click to enlarge.

Establishing an economically and environmentally beneficial, bio-derived Australian and New Zealand aviation fuels industry is a viable proposition, according to a report compiled by CSIRO (Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, Australia’s national science agency) in collaboration with the region’s major aviation industry players.

The report, “Flight Path to Sustainable Aviation”, examines a road map scenario under which the Australian and New Zealand aviation sectors achieve a 5% bio-derived jet fuel share in their fuel use by 2020, expanding that amount to 40% of their total fuel use by 2050. This development further enables the stabilization of aviation industry emissions from 2020 and assists in reducing emissions from 2030.

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Avjet Biotech negotiating strategic relationship with BioJet international for distributed refineries for drop-in renewable aviation fuel

April 28, 2011

Avjet Biotech, Inc. (ABI), a developer of small distributive refining systems in the 10 to 15 million gallon per year range and parent company of drop-in biofuel company Red Wolf Refining (RWR), is in negotiation for a strategic relationship with BioJet International Ltd, an international supply chain integrator, for renewable (bio) jet fuel and related co-products.

Under the agreement with ABI, BioJet will use the patented RWR System (earlier post) to build refineries that will produce drop-in renewable aviation biofuels from native feedstocks at locations around the globe.

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Gevo contracts with Mustang Engineering for the conversion of Gevo’s renewable isobutanol to biojet fuel

April 26, 2011

High-level process schematic for hydrocarbons from isobutanol. Source: Gevo. Click to enlarge.

Gevo, Inc., a renewable chemicals and advanced biofuels company, signed an engineering and consulting agreement with Mustang Engineering, LP for the conversion of Gevo’s renewable isobutanol to biojet fuel. This effort will focus on the downstream processing of isobutanol to paraffinic kerosene (jet fuel) for jet engine testing, airline suitability flights and advancing commercial deployment. (Earlier post.)

Gevo also announced that its “fit for purpose” testing at the Air Force Research Laboratory continues with a final report expected in June. Once completed successfully, the company will initiate jet engine testing with engine manufacturers.

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Start-up commercializing NC State technology for drop-in biofuels; full commercial production targeted for 2016

April 25, 2011

Avjet Biotech, Inc. (ABI), a developer of small distributive refining systems in the 10 to 15 million gallon per year range and parent company of Red Wolf Refining, has licensed exclusive rights to a technology portfolio developed at North Carolina State University (NCSU) for producing drop-in diesel, jet and gasoline hydrocarbon fuels from triglycerides (fats), and for producing products from genetically modified marine microalgae (earlier post).

NCSU had earlier licensed the technology to Diversified Energy (earlier post). Diversified Energy’s license agreement was terminated, according to Dr. Terry Bray at NCSU’s Office of Technology Transfer.

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Biofuels for Air Travel

Biofuels in Aviation – An Overview

During the last decade, various studies and reports have investigated the potential for use of biofuels in aviation. More recently, EC-funded R&D projects have been initiated to map a way forward for the introduction of sustainable biofuels to help reduce dependence on fossil fuels in air transport and reduce GHG emissions by the air industry.

Globally, various feedstocks and conversion technologies for production of biofuels for aviation are currently being developed. The first commercial flights using biojet fuel commenced in Autumn 2011.

In March 2012 Airbus, Boeing and Embraer signed a collaboration agreement to accelerate the commercialization of sustainable biojet fuel.

In April 2012 Porter Airlines, All Nippon Airways and Qantas all carried out successful demonstration flights using biojet fuel.

Lufthansa six month trial of Neste Oil renewable aviation fuel

Neste Oil has carried out pioneering work with Lufthansa in the area of aviation biofuels. Neste Oil’s “NExBTL renewable aviation fuel” was used on a total of 1,187 flights between Frankfurt and Hamburg during a six-month trial. This unique biofuel trial came to an end in January 2012 with an intercontinental flight, flown as a regular scheduled service, between Frankfurt and Washington D.C. Lufthansa and Neste Oil will present the results of the trial at their joint stand at International Green Week in Berlin. [Source: NesteOil].

The co-operation and technical trials are set to continue, and Lufthansa will now focus on the sustainability, availability, and certification of raw materials.

© Copyright Thomson Airways
Thomson Airways passenger plane being fuelled with sustainable avaiation biofuel View at larger size >>

Thomson Airways first commercial flight in Europe using sustainable biofuels

On 6 October 2011 a Boeing 757-200 operated by Thomson Airways carried 232 passengers from Birmingham Airport, UK to Arrecife, using a sustainable biofuels blend in one engine. The biofuel was supplied by SkyNRG, Netherlands, who is advised by an independent Sustainability Board consisting of two leading NGOs and a leading Government scientific institute. For Thomson Airways, SkyNRG partners with US refiner Dynamic Fuels and uses Used Cooking Oil as a feedstock.

The flight illustrates the potential for further use of aviation biofuels, in combination with improved efficiency, to reduce emissions from aviation and reduce dependence on fossil fuels. The challenge now facing the airline industry is to source commercial quantities of sustainable biojet fuels.

View ‘Plant Powered Planes’ info graphic (produced by Distilled) for Thomson Airways illustrating the potential for developing sustainable aviation biofuels on a commercial scale.

Inclusion of Aviation in the EU Emission Trading Scheme ETS

It has been announced that all flights in and out of EU airports are to be included in the EU Emissions Trading Scheme for 2012 (a scheme based on a “cap and trade” system for emissions allowances). The decision to include international flights is being legally challenged by some US airlines. From 2013, at least half the total number of ETS allowances is expected to be auctioned. It has been argued that money raised should be reinvested in R&D&D in sustainable technologies. For example in the aviation sector, proceeds from ETS could potentially be used to support the demonstration of advanced biojetfuels at the industrial scale.

European Advanced Biofuels Flight Path Initiative

The EC, in coordination with Airbus, leading European airlines (Lufthansa, Air France/KLM, & British Airways) and key European biofuel producers (Choren Industries, Neste Oil, Biomass Technology Group and UOP), has launched an initiative to speed up the commercialisation of aviation biofuels in Europe.

Biofuels FlightPath 4th Workshop: “Financial mechanisms for advanced biofuel flagship plants” was held on 20 March 2012.

Biofuels FlightPath 3rd Workshop: “The role of a European Civil Aviation Network in the promotion of aviation sustainable fuel and the deployment of the Biofuels Flight Path” was held on 12 December 2012.

The 2nd Biofuels FlightPath Workshop Progress and benchmarking of paraffinic value chains was held on 20 Septmber 2011 in brussels. Presentations and more information are available online.

The initiative, labelled “European Advanced Biofuels Flight path” is a roadmap with clear milestones to achieve an annual production of two million tonnes of sustainably produced biofuel for aviation by 2020. The “Biofuels Flight path” is a shared and voluntary commitment by its members to support and promote the production, storage and distribution of sustainably produced drop-in biofuels for use in aviation. It also targets establishing appropriate financial mechanisms to support the construction of industrial “first of a kind” advanced biofuel production plants.

The Biofuels Flight path is explained in a technical paper, which sets out in more detail the challenges and required actions. The key findings of the technical paper were presented to the stakeholders during a Workshop “Achieving 2 million tonnes of biofuels use in aviation by 2020” held in Brussels on 18 May 2011.

Launch of the European Advanced Biofuels Flightpath

Technical paper – 2 million tons per year: A performing biofuels supply chain for EU aviation (6 Mb)

The initiative has not been welcomed by some NGOs, such as Friends of the Earth (Flying in the Face of Facts), who argue that the 2m target may include aviation biofuels produced from palm oil (and express concerns over the efficacy of certification schemes for “sustainable” palm). It is also argued that new oil crops (e.g. Jatropha) may face issues such as lower yields on marginal land, and encourage “land grabs”, while advanced technologies for producing biojet fuel from algae or lignocellulosic feedstocks are not yet available at a commercial scale or competitive cost.

The debate over increased use of biofuels in aviation should take into account technical, commercial, environmental and social issues. However, these need to be weighed up against the lack of alternatives to fossil fuels for use in aviation (i.e. if biofuels are not be used, how will planes be powered in future, and how would society address the severe economic and practical implications of a dramatic reduction in future air transport?).

Recent information on biofuels in aviation

The Air Transport Action Group ATAG has produced two publications that provide a useful overview of progress, issues and opportunities for biofuels in aviation:

Powering the future of flight – The six easy steps to growing a viable aviation biofuels industry

Beginner’s Guide to Aviation Biofuels

Links to other reports on aviation biofuels can be found below and in the EBTP reports database.
© Copyright Boeing
A Virgin Atlantic 747-400 prepares for take-off from London Heathrow to Amsterdam using a sustainable biofuel blend composed of babassu and coconut oils blended with kerosene-based jet fuel. Boeing partnered with GE, Imperium Renewables and Virgin Atlantic to conduct the first commercial flight using sustainable biofuels as part of its efforts to guide the industry toward fuels that have a low-carbon-lifecycle footprint to help reduce impacts to climate change

Standards for renewable jet fuels

Renewable fuels can now be blended with conventional commercial and military jet (or gas turbine) fuel – see ASTM D7566-11, Specification for Aviation Turbine Fuel Containing Synthesized Hydrocarbons. The revised standard was approved on July 1, 2011. Through the new provisions included in ASTM D7566, up to 50 percent bioderived synthetic blending components can be added to conventional jet fuel. These renewable fuel components, calledhydroprocessed esters and fatty acids (HEFA), are identical to hydrocarbons found in jet fuel, but come from vegetable oil-containing feedstock. The standard already has criteria for fuel produced from coal, natural gas or biomass using Fischer-Tropsch synthesis.

First commercial flights using biokerosene

On 6 October 2011 a Boeing 757-200 operated by Thomson Airways carried 232 passengers from Birmingham Airport, UK to Arrecife, using a sustainable biofuels blend in one engine.

The Dutch airline KLM says it plans to use 50% biokerosene dervied from recycled cooking oil (collected in the EU and refined in the US) on 200 flights between Paris and Amsterdam, starting in Autumn 2011.

Future jet fuels

Hydrogen has also been suggested as an aircraft fuel of the future. In reality, hydrogen aircraft would require new engines and airframes, which are unlikely to be seen for at least several decades. Hence, at the present time novel liquid fuels are the only realistic alternative for commercial air transport. These include new fuels synthesised from gas (GTL) and coal (CTL) as well as those derived from biomass.

The potential use of synthetic jet fuels is just one of a wide range of long term solutions being introduced or considered to reduce the sustainability of air transport. In the more immediate future, projects such as the €1.6 billion public-private CLEAN SKY Joint Technology Initiative (JTI) aim to increase efficiency by accelerating development of new engine and aircraft design and other measures.

At the same time, biofuels are gaining increasing interest from airlines and airplane manufacturers.

Following successful demonstration flights of commercial aircraft using various biofuel blends, the ASTM Aviation Fuel Subcommittee in June 2009 passed a new fuel specification that would enable the use of synthetic fuels (including biofuels) in commercial air transport.

This has opened the door to the potential large-scale production of jet fuels from a range of biomass feedstocks from Jatropha to MSW. For example, in April 2011, an Interjet Airbus A320, used a mix of 73 % conventional jet fuel, and 27 % Bio-SPK, processed by Honeywell UOP from Jatropha seeds provided by Global Energías Renovables, and two other producers.

In the UK, British Airways plans to use 500,000 tonnes of waste to produce 16 million gallons of fuel at a plant in East London. The aim is to start production from 2014, creating up to 1,200 jobs. The plant would produce double the volume fuel needed for all flights from London City Airport (however this only represents 2% of flights from Heathrow). The plant will use Solena’s Plasma Gasification (SPG) technology, which can process 20-50% more waste than conventional gasification technologies.

In September 2008, the Sustainable Aviation Fuel Users Group SAFUG was formed to accelerate the development and commercialization of sustainable aviation fuels. Support and advice is provided by leading environmentalorganisations including the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Roundtable on Sustainable Biofuels (RSB). SAFUG members (including many of the world’s leading airlines) agree to contribute to robust sustainability and certification regimes via the RSB global multi-stakeholder process. All members subscribe to a sustainability pledge stipulating that any sustainable biofuel must perform as well as, or better than, kerosene-based fuel, but with a smaller carbon lifecycle.

UPS the world’s largest package delivery company has also indicated that it is considering use of biofuels to help meet its pledge to cut the carbon emissions of its airline by an additional 20% by 2020.

Biofuels in Aviation – Studies and Reports

A 2003 study by Imperial College – The Potential for Renewable Energy Sources in Aviation – investigated renewable alternatives to kerosene, the fuel currently used by jet aircraft. This concluded that bioethanol cannot be used for air transport due to its low energy density, and because it doesn’t combust effectively in ‘thin air’ at high altitude. The Imperial study also concluded that methanol and biogas are unsuitable for air transport for both technical and safety reasons. However, hydrogen, Fischer-Tropsch (FT) kerosene and biodiesel could all theoretically be used in aviation.

More recently, research has focued on production of ‘bio jet oil’ via a number of novel routes such as catalytic pyrolysis / refining and catalysis of plant sugars.

The 2007 report Alternative Technology Options for Road and Air Transport published by ETAG (European Technology Assessment Group) for the European Parliament, suggested that due to tighter operational and safety criteria for novel aviation fuels, biofuels will predominantly be used in the road transport sector for the forseeable future. However, this assessment was made before the successful test flights of Boeing and AIRBUS aircraft, and the landmark ASTM Aviation Fuel Subcommittee decision to establish a specification for synthetic aviation fuels.

The establishment of SAFUG and increasing investments in biojet fuel R&D indicate that biofuels are now most definitely on the radar of major airlines.

The ICAO Workshop on Aviation and Alternative Fuels (WAAF) held on 10-12 February 2009 included 30 presentations, with several covering use of biofuels.

In the UK, the Sustainable Aviation strategy group brings together researchers, airlines and other stakeholders contributing to a number of key documents proposing a way forward for sustainabile air travel.

In July 2009, a research summary was published by Policy Exchange, UK entitled Green Skies Thinking – promoting the development and commercialisation of sustainable jet fuels

© Copyright Boeing
A Boeing lab technician conducts automated freeze-point testing on jet fuel samples at the Boeing Commercial Airplanes Fuels and Lubricants Test Laboratory in Seattle. Boeing is exploring second-generation biofuel testing to identify renewable alternative fuel sources for aviation uses as part of the company’s environmental initiative.

Biofuels in Aviation – Feedstocks and conversion technologies

2nd Generation biofuels derived from Jatropha and Camelina have been successfully blended with Jet A fuel in demonstration flights.

In March 2012 it was announced that Albermale would manufacture biojet fuel from butanol, provided by Cobalt, using NAWCWD’s alcohol to jet technology.

In April 2012 Agrisoma Biosciences announced that Resonance™ (Brassica carianata) will be evaluated as a feedstock for Honeywell Green Jet Fuel™.

Airbus has teamed with Honeywell Aerospace; UOP, a Honeywell Company; International Aero Engines (IAE); and JetBlue Airways to pursue development of a sustainable second-generation biofuel for use in commercial aircraft.

In August 2008, The world’s first algal based jet fuel was produced by Solazyme. It passed the most critical ASTM D1655 specification tests.

In January 2009, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) awarded Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC) a $25m contract to develop an integrated process for developing Jet Fuel (JP-8 replacement) from algae.

A 100% renewable jet fuel produced by the Energy & Environmental Research Center (EERC), University of North Dakota, under a $4m contract with DARPA has been tested by the AFRL and met JP-8 specification criteria.

Arizona State University Laboratory for Algae Research & Biotechnology, Heliae Development, LLC and Science Foundation Arizona are also collaborating in the development of kerosene-based jet fuel derived from algae.

The Virent BioForming® Process for catalytic conversion of plant sugars into liquid hydrocarbon fuels could also potentially be used to produce jet fuel from sustainable feedstocks.

EC and other Projects on use of Sustainable Biofuels in Aviation

SWAFEA Sustainable Way for Alternative Fuel and Energy in Aviation
A 26 month study (starting May 2009) with €5.1m funding from DG-TREN involving 19 partners from aviation and fuel industries, airlines, research and consultancy to develop a vision and road map for sustinable deployment of alternative fuels and energies in aviation

ALFA-BIRD gathers a multi-disciplinary consortium that aims to develop the use of alternative fuels in aeronautics, with key industrial partners from aeronautics (engine manufacturer, aircraft manufacturer) and fuel industy, and research organization covering a large spectrum of expertise in fields of biochemistry, combustion as well as industrial safety. Bringing together their knowledge, the consortium will develop the whole chain for clean alternative fuels for aviation. The most promising solutions will be examined during the project, from classical ones (plant oils, synthetic fuels) to the most innovative, such as new organic molecules. Based on a first selection of the most relevant alternative fuels, a detailed analysis of up to 5 new fuels will be performed with tests in realistic conditions.

BioTfuel is a 112.7m Euro joint project launched by five French partners and Uhde. BioTfueL aims to integrate all the stages of the BTL process chain and bring them to market. The project includes the construction and operation of two pilot plants in France to produce biodiesel and biokerosene (bio-jet fuel) based on biomass gasification. The plants are scheduled to go into operation in 2012.

Clean Sky JTI

The Clean Sky JTI is one of the largest European research projects ever, with a budget estimated at €1.6 billion, equally shared between the European Commission and industry, over the period 2008 – 2013. This public-private partnership will speed up technological breakthrough developments and shorten the time to market for new solutions tested on Full Scale Demonstrators.

“Clean Sky will demonstrate and validate the technology breakthroughs that are necessary to make major steps towards the environmental goals sets by ACARE – Advisory Concil for Aeronautics Research in Europe – the European Technology Platform for Aeronautics & Air Transport and to be reached in 2020:”

  • ·        50% reduction of CO2 emissions through drastic reduction of fuel consumption
  • ·        80% reduction of NOx (nitrogen oxide) emissions
  • ·        50% reduction of external noise
  • ·        A green product life cycle: design, manufacturing, maintenance and disposal / recycling

This will be achieved by technologies in areas such as loads and flow control, Aircraft Energy Management, NOx and CO2 reduction, rotorcraft, regional aircraft, trajectory management, smart fixed-wing aircraft, etc.

Demonstration flights using biofuels

Below are details of some earlier test flights of biofuels. In 2010/2011 testing has been carried out in a number of different planes with various bio jet fuel blends, and several airlines and their partners are now investigating production of aviation biofuels on the commercial scale.

In Spring 2011, Interjet and Airbus conducted the first jatropha-based biofuel test flight in Mexico. An The Airbus 320 jet successfully flew from Mexico City International Airport to Angel Albino Corzo of Tuxtla Gutierrez airport in the southern State of Chiapas. One of the aircraft’s two engines was fuelled with a 30 percent blend of biojet fuel by Honeywell UOP.

In June 2010, the first flight by an airplane using algal biofuels was demonstarted by EADS at the Berlin Air Show. EADS has partnered with IGV GmbH in the development of algae-based biofuels. An IGV photobioreactor, which multiplies microalgae, was also exhibited at the Berlin Air Show.

In February 2008, Virgin Atlantic carried out a test flight of a Boeing 747 Jumbo from London to Amsterdam with a 20% blend of coconut and babassu oil in one of the aircraft’s fuel tanks. However, the company concedes that there are no immediate plans to use similar mixtures in commercial flights. More info

Also in February 2008, an Airbus A380 used a 40% blend of GTL (gas to Liquid) in a flight from Bristol to Toulose, paving the way for future use of BTL. “Analysis of data from the A380’s historic flight powered by an alternative fuel derived from gas (GTL) has shown that use of the GTL blend had no adverse impact on the engine, aircraft systems or materials, and that it behaved like conventional kerosene.”

In December 2008, a blend of 2nd Generation biofuel from Jatropha was used in one Rolls Royce engine for a two hour test flight of an Air New Zealand Boeing 747-400. More info

Bio-Derived Synthetic Paraffinic Kerosene (Bio-SPK) has been used by Boeing in flight tests of several different aircraft between 2006 and 2009. Performance was as good as (or better than) Jet A fuel. 
View evaluation report

In January 2009, Japan Airlines (JAL) used a 50:50 blend of Jet A fuel and 2nd generation synthetic kerosene, mainly produced from Camelina, in one Pratt & Whitney engine of a Boeing 747-300.
View JAL press release

National Initiatives on Sustainable Aviation

In June 2011, a group of 20 airlines, aviation companies, universities and biofuel producers lauched AIREG the Aviation Initiative for Renewable Energy in Germany. It aims at coordinating research activities and fostering the market introduction of “climate friendly” aviation fuels.

Powering the future of flight

The six easy steps to growing aviable aviation biofuels industry

Download PDF : Powering-141456A

Roadside air pollution in Hong Kong: Why is it still so bad?

Download PDF : 110706RoadsideAir_en

Bold steps on air pollution could secure C.Y. Leung re-election


May 20, 2012

Two things stand out in WWF Hong Kong chief Eric Bohm’s decision to quit the city 31 years after arriving from Canada and settling here. His public campaign against air pollution had become very personal and he blames flaws in our political system for lack of progress.

The 68-year-old former businessman’s decision to move to Britain reflects the disappointments over eight years of fighting to improve the quality of our air. But it was prompted by the desire to spare his asthmatic wife from having to breathe it any longer after two bouts of pneumonia within a year, which he says were triggered by bad air and irritation.

The recently introduced ban on engine idling illustrates his frustration with the political system. It should have been one of the unqualified legacies of his eight years with WWF, the city’s biggest green group. Instead, under pressure from the transport lobby, the government watered it down with exemptions and concessions to the point where it has become the idling ban you have when you don’t have one.Bohm cites this as evidence of the stumbling block to environmental progress posed by a political system that responds to vested interests rather than public opinion, and a civil service that is reluctant to rock the boat.

But he has not lost hope. He says, rightly, that Hong Kong people do care about the environment and trusts that chief executive-elect Leung Chun-ying, neither a tycoon nor a former civil servant, will reflect this by revealing a vision of what the city should be like to look at and live in.

Failing that, there is the prospect that, from 2017, Hong Kong will have a chief executive elected by universal suffrage who will have more reason to take public opinion into account.

If Leung wants the honour of being the city’s first elected leader, he should use his first term to show that he takes air quality seriously. In that respect, his environmental advisers are right to acknowledge the need for a show of strong political will – conspicuously absent up to now – and better policy integration between different departments.

If Bohm did not already have a good reason for leaving, the government has just provided him with one – the decision to extend the franchises of three bus companies by 10 years with no more than cosmetic provision for fast-tracking the retirement of old, polluting vehicles. Harmful levels of roadside pollution in built-up areas are mostly attributable to buses and trucks using “dirty” engines, whether old or merely poorly maintained.

If Leung is to have any credibility on the environment, he needs to revisit issues like idling engines and polluting buses. He could start by making an exception of these buses and subsidising their private owners to fast-track their retirement.

From: []
Sent: 31 March, 2012 10:28
To: James Middleton
Subject: Re: Statistics
Dear Mr. Middleton,

Apart from the enforcement conducted by the traffic wardens during their normal patrol duty, we have conducted 107 pre-planned enforcement and publicity operations since the implementation of the Motor Vehicle Idling (Fixed Penalty) Ordinance in December 2011.  In general, the drivers are co-operative and so far no Fixed Penalty Notices have been issued. We will continue our extensive publicity and education programmes throughout Hong Kong to promote the message of switching off idling engines and encourage drivers to take up the green driving habit.

Environmental Protection Department