Refuelling the Future: Sustainable, Drop-In aviation Biofuel Is a Reality but Challenges Remain, Says Boeing
(GreenAirOnline) Back in 2005, the idea of using biofuels to power commercial and military jets seemed beyond the range of modern science. While suitable for cars and trucks, biofuels offered little hope they could meet the stringent requirements of commercial airplanes and high-performance jet engines. But in 2006, Boeing product development professionals became aware of research that challenged the notion that biofuels could not compete with traditional kerosene-based jet fuel in terms of energy content, technical performance, infrastructure requirements and cost. They reached out to others in the industry to determine whether biofuels could help meet the environmental challenges of commercial aviation. And their efforts paid off in a big way, reports Boeing’s Bill Seil.
“It was a dream five years ago, and now it’s a reality,” said Billy Glover, Vice President, Environment and Aviation Policy, Boeing Commercial Airplanes. Biofuels that can be used as a ‘drop-in’ replacement for kerosene are “not only feasible but highly desirable. The next step is to make it commercially viable.”
Although Boeing has no plans to produce aviation biofuels, it has taken a leading role in accelerating their development. It’s critically important for Boeing, its customers and the aerospace industry to reduce the environmental impact of jet aircraft, as well as to have another option for fuel supply, Glover said.
… “We’ve set ourselves the goal of having 1% of all aviation fuel include some biofuel content by the year 2015,” he said. “We view that as the hardest 1%. After that, the learning curve improves and it becomes easier to get to 5%, 10% and so on.”
…“I’d say the key challenge that’s in front of us now is making the use of biofuels economical,” (Ned) Ferguson (Director, Environment, Government Operations) said. “We need to reach the point where these fuels can stand on their own and compete with petroleum.” Also, the US Environmental Protection Agency has set ambitious environmental requirements for biofuels. To meet standards, advanced biofuels must achieve a 50% life-cycle reduction in greenhouse gas emissions over current fuels.
…For example, the biomass materials used to produce the biofuel must be products such as algae or jatropha and camelina plants that are not part of the food supply. Biofuels must also, through their entire life-cycle, produce lower greenhouse gas emissions than conventional jet fuel does. This includes the byproducts of growing and processing the plants into fuel in addition to emissions from the airplane itself. For example, the production of any fertiliser for biofuel crops requires energy, which may involve the use of petroleum. READ MORE and MORE (FoxNews)