Green sky thinking to promote the development of sustainable bio-jet fuels

by Published Wed 22 Jul 2009 10:24, Last updated: 2009-07-22
Planes should be the focus of biofuel research, says think tank

Biofuel research should focus on planes and not cars, the influential think tank Policy Exchange has claimed in a new report.

They say a crop area the size of the US continent would be needed to grow enough biofuel to power all the world's cars and alternatives, such as electricity, already exist for them.

Instead, it said the EU should fund research into using plant-based fuel for aviation to help cut emissions and the UK should increase its support for companies involved in its development.

Last week the aviation industry ramped up its efforts to identify sustainable sources of biofuel for aircraft with the announcement that four airlines had joined the Sustainable Aviation Fuel Users Group and it was extending its research projects to cover types of saltwater plants.

British Airways, Cathay Pacific, TUIfly and Virgin Blue joined the coalition, taking the number of aviation and engineering firms involved to 16, including high-profile firms such as Boeing, Air France, KLM, Virgin Atlantic and Honeywell UOP.

A number of airlines, including Virgin Atlantic and Air New Zealand, have already successfully tested jet fuels that contain biofuels and are now focusing their research efforts on developing biofuels that can be produced on an industrial scale without affecting agricultural land use or driving up food prices.

Now the Policy Exchange think tank says the EU should support the industry and switch its focus to funding and supporting the development of aviation biofuels because planes cannot be powered by other sources of energy.

The 'Green Skies Thinking' report states: “The development and commercialisation of sustainable bio-jet fuels should become a priority. Bio-jet fuels currently represent the only viable option for significantly reducing emissions from aviation without cutting the number of flights flown.

“They can be used in old and new aircraft alike, in stark contrast to most other technologies that can improve aircraft fuel efficiency, such as engine and airframe advances.

“Despite their potential, the current policy framework in the UK and EU is unable to deliver their deployment and commercialisation. This is partly because current policies, principally the EU Emissions Trading Scheme (EU ETS) and UK Air Passenger Duty (UK APD), do not support the investors and developers involved and fail to create the demand needed to enable commercialisation.

“In fact, there are no specific policies within Europe that aim to promote the development and commercialisation of sustainable bio-jet fuels.”

Policy Exchange is calling for an urgent switch in focus to find practical low-carbon alternatives to reduce emissions instead of reducing the demand for flights.

The report, released today, added: “Sustainable bio-jet fuels are one critical option that can be delivered over the medium term, in time to make a significant contribution to our 2050 emission reduction targets. For this to work, ambitious policies need to be put in place urgently and with the conviction needed to meet the global challenge we face.

“Bio-jet fuels are technically feasible and will be imminently certified as safe and compatible to be used in conjunction with standard kerosene jet fuel. Moreover, the advanced biofuels that could be used in aviation should not be confused with first generation biofuels and the specific debates surrounding their sustainability and practicality.

“On both fronts we have shown that with the right regulatory framework, sustainability and dramatic life-cycle greenhouse gas emission reductions can be delivered. The marginal land used to produce sustainable bio-jet fuels is also sufficient, so enough feedstock can be cultivated to meet current and predicted total jet fuel demand.

“This is in profound contrast to the amount of land needed to cultivate sufficient feedstock to meet road transport fuel demand with biofuels.”

The report calls for a four-point plan of attack to increase the use of bio-jet fuels across the global aviation industry:

* To create demand for sustainable bio-jet fuels an EU Sustainable Bio-jet Fuel Blending Mandate
should be introduced from 2020

* The UK should increase support for companies conducting R&D; into the production of
sustainable bio-jet fuels

* We should invest in the methodologies and regulatory bodies needed to ensure that bio-jet fuels
are produced sustainably and deliver dramatic life-cycle greenhouse gas emission reductions

* The cost of deploying sustainable bio-jet fuels should be minimised.

The Sustainable Aviation Fuel Users Group is currently working on research into using algae and jatropha curcas-based biofuels, both of which are believed to have a significantly lower environmental and carbon impact than fuels made from corn or other food crops.

It added that it was also about to launch a new project to assess the viability of halophytes, a class of plants that thrive in saltwater habitats, which it is hoped can be produced in large quantities without eating into agricultural land.

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Comments about Green sky thinking to promote the development of sustainable bio-jet fuels

Besides jets discussions, the General Aviation must also be considered: here, ETHANOL is a feasible solution and has already proved to work.
Lucas Arruda, Brazil around 4 years, 5 months ago
I have developed a range of biodegradable lubricants but rejected bio sources because of crop variability - perhaps fatal flaw for aviation?
Bruce Murray, Devon around 4 years, 5 months ago

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