Boeing hoping to convert “green” diesel into jet fuel and BIOJet Abu Dhabi launched to produce UAE jet biofuels
Boeing is now aiming to use biofuels currently put into so-called “green” diesel into aircraft fuel. One Boeing official called the revelation a “major breakthrough” in the industry’s quest to wean itself off fossil fuels and reduce CO2 emissions. It is, in reality, nothing of the sort. Immense amounts of biofuel are already grown, most of it competing with food crops, to put into road vehicle engines. There will not be sufficient land area on which to feed humanity, as well as its road vehicles, and now aviation getting into the act, in order to get some “green” PR benefits. Boeing says “Unlike some other alternative fuels, green diesel is already being produced on a relatively large scale and, with current government subsidies, is cost-competitive with traditional jet fuel, called Jet-A.” In practice all sources of oils and fats which could genuinely be classed as sustainable have alternative markets already. If aviation takes these, the other users will be forced to use less “sustainable” fuels through knock-on effects. In addition a new initiative to support an aviation biofuel industry in the United Arab Emirates, BIOjet Abu Dhabi, has been announced one day after Etihad Airways conducted a demonstration flight with a Boeing 777 powered in part by the first UAE-produced biokerosene from an unspecified “innovative plant biomass-processing technology.”
Boeing research shows green diesel’s high-flying possibilities
New research by Boeing Co. shows that so-called green diesel, a fuel blend made from oils and fats that’s already used in trucks and other ground transportation, can be used to power aircraft too, the Chicago-based aviation giant announced Tuesday.
One official called the revelation a “major breakthrough” in the industry’s quest to wean itself off fossil fuels and reduce harmful emissions.
“Green diesel is one small step in total aviation fuel capacity, but it’s one giant leap forward in the commercialization of sustainable aviation biofuels,” said Julie Felgar, managing director of Boeing Commercial Airplanes Environmental Strategy and Integration.
Unlike some other alternative fuels, green diesel is already being produced on a relatively large scale and, with current government subsidies, is cost-competitive with traditional jet fuel, called Jet-A, Boeing said.
“To date, we have been working on a number of pathways, and we’ve even gotten approval for biofuels, but we haven’t been able to do the supply-demand quotient yet,” Felgar said.
By contrast, green diesel is already a proven fuel alternative that flies, economically, she said. There is already a supply, and the price is right.
“We started to cast our net wide, and we realized we really needed to take a good look at what was being used in ground transportation, because that would help us get the economics right,” she said. “It’s like an innovation ecosystem where you start down one path and then start running down bunny trails. And sometimes you find that pot of gold at the end of a bunny trail.”
Green diesel, made from such materials as recycled animal fat, used cooking oil and inedible corn oil, has half the carbon emissions of fossil fuels. And it would allow airlines, cargo carriers and military, for example, to use the same alternative fuel blend in their trucks and their planes.
Boeing officials are hoping the fuel can get regulatory approval this year for aircraft use. If approved, the fuel could be blended directly with traditional jet fuel and does not require modifications to aircraft engines. It can be blended with traditional jet fuel in a ratio of up to 50 percent, Felgar said.
Commercial aviation and the U.S. military consume 20 billion gallons of jet fuel a year. The cost of jet fuel, nowadays the biggest operating cost for airlines, has tripled since 2000, making it a major issue for carriers.
The aviation industry has proved in tests that it can fly airplanes safely and efficiently on fuels made from cornhusks or algae or many sources other than crude oil. But adoption of so-called biofuels to fly jets ultimately comes down to economics.
In the case of green diesel, also called renewable diesel, its wholesale cost is competitive with petroleum jet fuel at about $3 a gallon, including U.S. government incentives. And green diesel plants around the world, including two in Louisiana, have the capacity to produce 800 million gallons — not near enough to meet the demand of the aviation industry but ahead of other alternative fuels.
Green diesel isn’t the only answer among alternative fuels but it accelerates the evolution, Felgar said. “A few years ago, people said this was a complete longshot,” she said. “We still have a lot of work to do, but it will be an easier road to travel.”
The topic of alternative fuels for aviation has been a hot one in the Midwest, in part because so many local companies and organizations are involved with the topic.
The world’s second-largest airline, United Airlines, and the world’s largest aircraft-maker, Boeing, are both based in Chicago and part of the Midwest Aviation Sustainable Biofuels Initiative, as is Chicago-based Clean Energy Trust and Honeywell UOP, a leader in aviation biofuel technologies headquartered in Des Plaines. Argonne National Laboratory in Lemont chairs the group’s advisory council. Solazyme Inc. has a Peoria plant that produces oil from algae, and LanzaTech of Roselle has a process that converts waste gas, from steel mills for example, into fuel.
In June, the Midwest Aviation Sustainable Biofuels Initiative announced a number of steps toward developing aviation biofuels. For example, the Chicago Department of Aviation, which operates O’Hare International and Midway airports, and United Airlines pledged to identify ways to develop alternative fuels, focusing on converting waste streams in the Chicago area into jet fuel. And Honeywell UOP, United and Boeing will provide funding for Purdue University to research ways to convert corn stover — leaves and stalks left in fields after a harvest — into jet fuel.
United Airlines last year signed a three-year deal to buy 15 million gallons of biofuel from a commercial-scale plant near Los Angeles operated by AltAir Fuels. The biofuel is planned to be used on United flights departing from the carrier’s Los Angeles airport hub this year.
Boeing Joins New BIOjet Abu Dhabi Team to Grow Biofuel Supply Chain in United Arab Emirates
20.1.2014 (Enviro aero)
– Collaboration focuses on research, feedstock production and refining capability
– Announcement follows Etihad 777 biofuel demonstration flight in Abu Dhabi
Etihad Airways, Boeing, Takreer, Total and the Masdar Institute of Science and Technology today announced they will collaborate on a new initiative – BIOjet Abu Dhabi: Flight Path to Sustainability – to support a sustainable aviation biofuel industry in the United Arab Emirates.
BIOjet Abu Dhabi will engage a broad range of stakeholders to develop a comprehensive framework for a UAE biofuel supply chain, including research and development and expanded investment in feedstock production and refining capability in the UAE and globally.
BIOjet Abu Dhabi was announced one day after Etihad Airways conducted a demonstration flight with a Boeing 777 powered in part by the first UAE-produced biokerosene from an innovative plant biomass-processing technology. The biofuel was partially converted from biomass by Total and its partner Amyris. Takreer, a wholly owned subsidiary of Abu Dhabi National Oil Co. (ADNOC), did the final aviation biofuel distillation, adding the UAE to a handful of countries that have produced and flown on their own biokerosene.
The Masdar Institute’s Sustainable Bioenergy Research Consortium, funded by Etihad Airways and Boeing, is currently researching and developing salt-tolerant plants that would be raw material for the same refining processes to produce renewable fuel.
James Hogan, President and Chief Executive Officer of Etihad Airways, said, “In collaboration with our key partners, our goal is to support and help drive the commercialisation of sustainable aviation fuel in Abu Dhabi, the region and also globally. We have made some important first steps in this process and our continued focus will be to develop further initiatives such as this which will facilitate the availability of sustainable aviation biofuels for Etihad Airways in the coming years.”
The Etihad Airways demonstration flight and announcement of BIOjet Abu Dhabi were held in the run-up to Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week and the World Future Energy Summit, hallmarks of UAE leaders’ commitment to sustainable energy development. BIOjet Abu Dhabi: Flight Path to Sustainability is aligned with the Abu Dhabi Economic Vision 2030, which seeks to develop sustainable energy sources to diversify the UAE economy and increase workforce opportunities for Emiratis.
Jeffrey Johnson, President of Boeing Middle East, said: “With further commitment and investment, the UAE, a global leader in commercial aviation, is well-positioned to lead efforts to make our industry more sustainable. Boeing, which works with partners around the world to advance sustainable biofuel development, sees great opportunity for BIOjet Abu Dhabi to have a positive impact in the UAE and globally.”
Jasem Ali Al Sayegh, Chief Executive Officer of Takreer, said: “Takreer is proud to have been involved in refining this product at its Abu Dhabi research centre. We support the concept of using biofuel as a sustainable aviation fuel for a cleaner future in line with ADNOC’s sustainability policy. We see this strategy as complementary to our future plans in meeting the rapid growth in demand for jet fuel in the country and the region in view of the expansion of the operations of airlines here.”
Bernard Clément, Senior Vice President of Total New Energies, added: “As a long-lasting partner of Abu Dhabi and responsible oil and gas producer, Total is proud to participate in the BIOjet Abu Dhabi initiative, and to assist the Emirate in the diversification of its energy mix. This demonstration flight – the first of its kind in the Middle East – illustrates the capacity of Total to integrate, as of today, aeronautical biofuels in a concrete and reliable way. Improving energy efficiency and leveraging the potential of renewables have become fully embedded in Total’s business model with concrete achievements in biofuels as well as in the solar sector.”
Dr Fred Moavenzadeh, President of Masdar Institute, said: “The collaboration for BIOjet Abu Dhabi reflects our partners’ commitment to sustainable biofuel, a concept that is currently being implemented from our side through the Sustainable Bioenergy Research Consortium. We remain focused on identifying commercially viable means for the production of sustainable aviation fuel and welcome the new initiative that will pave the way for faster adoption of such fuel by the industry. With our expertise, we will continue our contribution towards offering clean energy solutions for the benefit of all stakeholders.”
Etihad Airways is an airline industry leader in supporting the development of lower-carbon renewable fuels. A member of the Sustainable Aviation Fuel Users Group (SAFUG), the airline operated the Gulf region’s first biofuel flight in January 2011 with a Boeing 777 delivery from Seattle to Abu Dhabi powered by a blend of petroleum-based and certified plant oil-based jet fuel.