13.5.2011 (Green Air Online)
An investment of up to $70 billion will be required to meet aviation biofuel
targets, and is needed now, said Mitch Hawkins, the CEO of BioJet International,
a company that aims to become a leading global feedstock producer and supplier
of renewable jet fuel.
Speaking at this week’s IATA Aviation Fuel Forum in Singapore, he noted the industry
had set a target of 6 per cent of jet fuel coming from sustainable biofuels by
2020 but because of the lead times involved, he said the multi-billion investment
would have to start flowing immediately to achieve the goal.
The EU recently set out its ambitions for biofuels to make up 40 per cent of
the overall aviation mix by 2050. Meanwhile, the Air Transport Action Group (ATAG),
the industry umbrella organisation, has since clarified its position on aviation
biofuel targets, saying they had not been set.
Hawkins told the conference he had based his calculation on the overall investment
needed by using just one of the identified feedstocks of jatropha, camelina, algae
or waste biomass. Using jatropha as the main feedstock, for example, would require
an investment of around $30 billion to fund 2,000 farms of 10,000 hectares each,
he said. Similarly, if it was camelina then an investment of $34 billion would
be needed to cover 8,500 farms. In addition, he estimated $34 billion would be
required to build 67 bio-refining plants at a cost of $350 million to $500 million
With recent public offerings raising funds of around $100 million each for major
biofuels players, “the numbers just don’t wash,” said Hawkins.
BioJet, an Alternative Fuels Strategic Partner of IATA, itself received a $1.2
billion funding commitment from Equity Partners Fund in February and has since
announced a number of deals. The company has just agreed to merge with Florida-based
Abundant Biofuels, a leading international feedstock developer that controls over
4 million hectares in 10 countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America. Abundant
claims to have sufficient nursery seed stock to develop jatropha plantations over
the next three years capable of producing more than 20 million barrels of biofuel.
Commenting on the agreement, Abundant Group Chairman Charles Fishel said: “Competitors
either focus solely on refining or only on the production of feedstock. BioJet
will be one of the few, if not the only, international biofuels company that can
control all of its feedstock. This provides BioJet with the ability to control
its internal allocation of resources for a significant cost control advantage
while other companies are subject to severe fluctuations in cost and availability
BioJet’s Hawkins said the Abundant merger would be a major step in his company’s
goal of becoming the world’s largest owner and developer of feedstock for renewable
jet fuel and green diesel. “Ownership and control of feedstock is the absolute
key to all biofuels,” he added.
Two weeks ago, BioJet entered into a strategic relationship with Avjet Biotech
(ABI), a developer of small distributive refining systems in the 10 to 15 million
gallon-per-year range. Under the agreement, BioJet will use ABI’s patented RWR
System to build refineries to produce aviation biofuels from native feedstocks
at locations around the globe.
The RWR System uses a thermal catalytic process to refine any triglyceride (the
main constituent of vegetable oils and animal fats) into aviation biofuels. The
technology is under development for sale as a small distributive refining system
to global entities or foreign governments that aspire to produce aviation biofuels
from native feedstocks, says ABI. Last month, ABI announced that it had concluded
a licence agreement to secure exclusive rights to a technology portfolio developed
at North Carolina State University for producing biofuels from triglycerides and
for producing products from genetically modified marine microalgae.
As the exclusive licensee for the commercialisation of these technologies, ABI
will sell stock and use the funds raised to reimburse the university for its investment
in patent applications, as well as allocate development capital to create a continuous
production model for the biofuel refining system. “This agreement is a major piece
in our plan to provide aviation biofuels internationally,” said ABI CEO Don Evans.
Meanwhile, the Air Transport Action Group (ATAG), which represents the aviation
industry on environmental issues, has said that there is at present no actual
industry target for the use of biofuels. In its March 2011 publication ‘Powering
the Future of Flight’, ATAG said the sector was “striving to practically replace
6% of our fuel in 2020 with biofuel – we hope this figure can be higher.” However,
ATAG’s Haldane Dodd cautions against using the figure as an industry commitment.
“Aviation biofuels are at a tipping point in the next few years. We will have
approval to use a new generation of biofuels on passenger flights in the coming
months. The big challenge now is commercialisation. We need to get significant
quantities of cost-competitive, sustainably-sourced biofuel coming on stream in
order to fulfil our broader climate target of reducing emissions by 50% by 2050,”
he told GreenAir Online.
“The big question is how much can we get and by when? At this stage, we just
don’t know. We have used the 6% figure, certainly not as a goal or target, but
by way of saying this much could practically be produced by 2020 – given the right
fiscal incentives and signals, particularly from governments.
“You have to remember this is an industry at a very early stage, but it is evolving
very rapidly – from nothing to certification in just over three years. Already
we have airlines signing forward purchase agreements and indeed contracts with
biofuel suppliers. The investment community is starting to wake up and increasing
interest is being shown to invest in this new energy source. Governments are also
identifying aviation as the most effective place to use sustainable biofuels.
Europe, in its recent transport white paper, has identified that biofuel use should
be prioritised for aviation because other transport modes have alternative energy
“We have identified in our ‘Powering the Future of Flight’ document a set of
steps that governments can take to help get aviation biofuels off the ground.
We are not necessarily looking for subsidies – unlike many oil companies – but
we do want sustainable aviation biofuels to be given a boost, particularly in
the early years to help bring the cost differential down.
“It is very true that a lot of investment is needed to get to 1% biofuel use
in aviation, let alone 6% or 40%. We fully expect that. But last year, airlines
spent $140 billion on fuel. This year, it could be as high as $175 billion and
we are not seeing any relief in the medium term from oil price rises. Over $35
billion price differential year-on-year would say that there is significant scope
for development of alternative sources. There is a big market out there for those
that want to invest.
“The important thing is that there is no actual industry-wide target for biofuels
as of yet.”
A major US-led initiative to promote aviation biofuels on the international stage
will take place during next month’s Paris Air Show, which aims to showcase current
developments and bring together suppliers, airline customers, investors and government
representatives. A number of leading biofuel companies are expected to take part
and an Investors’ Day is planned for Wednesday, 22 June.
Read more »
Iberia has teamed up with Spanish airports operator AENA and AlgaEnergy to establish
a microalgae-based biofuel research project at Madrid Barajas Airport.
The facility, in which an initial €600,000 ($539,622) has been invested, will
be located near the airport’s Terminal 4 and will become operational next month.
The research plant will capture and use carbon dioxide from Iberia’s aircraft
engine bench test facility, which would otherwise have been emitted into the atmosphere.
The eventual aim is to produce biofuel that can be used to power aircraft as
well as airport ground vehicles.
Oil company Repsol plans to convert the biomass oils into biofuel.
Read more »
This is a very biased article, surprisingly in the Ecologist, by the aviation
20th April, 2011
The aviation industry deserves credit for being proactive about looking for alternatives
to fossil fuels, says Paul Steele from the Air Transport Action Group
Your article on the use of jatropha for aviation biofuel ‘Germany joins up with Lufthansa to sponsor biofuel six times worse than fossil
fuels,’ didn’t do justice to the amount of work being undertaken by the air transport
sector to move into biofuels in a responsible way.
Having seen the issues caused by road transport’s use of first generation sources,
the aviation industry has been proactive in trying to ‘do it right,’ from the
start. At the same time, the aviation industry does not have the luxury of a variety
of renewable energy sources like other sectors (wind, solar, hydrogen etc) and
is therefore focussed on developing second generation sustainable biofuels as
a means of reducing GHG emissions.
We have been working with the Roundtable on Sustainable Biofuels to set in place
a set of robust criteria to determine the sustainability of feedstock, including
the impact that these crops will have on local populations and lifecycle CO2 emissions.
Grown responsibly, jatropha can have a positive impact on the livelihoods of those
growing it and also bring about impressive reductions in carbon emissions.
At the end of the day, any crop can be grown unsustainably. The success factor
is making sure we set standards so that crops can be grown in a way that doesn’t
impact negatively on people’s lives and resources and then putting in place a
structure to ensure that they are grown according to those standards.
In fact, a recent Yale University study showed that jatropha plantations in Brazil are able to have as much as
an 85 per cent decrease in lifecycle carbon emissions, when grown in a responsible
way. But jatropha is just one potential source of biofuel for aviation – a range
of non-food crops and advanced biomass sources such as algae promise to provide
low-carbon fuel for air transport.
NGOs should be working with the aviation industry to lock this process in, creating
a vital source of new income for the people they aim to help. ActionAid, on its
website, offers supporters the “trip of a lifetime” to see their projects in action.
When they fly to Kenya or India this year, surely they would like to know that
their airline is investigating all avenues to reduce the footprint of that flight
– sustainable biofuels and all?
The aviation industry’s efforts are much wider than just biofuels. As outlined
on our website www.enviro.aero, we are making substantial progress in a wide range of different areas. Biofuels
make up a very important part of the aviation carbon reduction story and we are
determined to do a good job in using this fuel source, right from the start.
Paul Steele is executive director of the Air Transport Action Group
Reply by AirportWatch
Why is use of jatropha by the aviation industry misguided?
Starting aviation down a path of biofuels is highly difficult and controversial.
1. The industry has no plans to cut its activity, or emissions – and plans to
transport more and more passengers, year after year. They are not really making
meaningful (apart from the spin, which needs to be read very carefully indeed)
efforts to cut carbon.
2. The majority of trips by plane are not essential, and many could be made by
other means. Or for business trips, some could be done by video conferencing.
The industry would like more and more inessential, discretionary trips to be made
– needlessly producing high carbon emissions, using huge amounts of fuel.
3. The aviation industry claims it must have priviledged access to liquid fuels
(biofuels, once it has exhausted all other options) and transport uses on land
can go over to renewably- generated electricity.
4. The biofuels supply is one whole – part comes from food plants (bioethanol)
and part from other non-food plant sources (bio diesel). It is all linked. If
jatropha can indeed produce a lot of fuel, and aviation takes it, the demand for
other biofuels for road transport still remains. It does not help reduce other
demand. If a very large amount of liquid fuels is needed, as our societies are
wedded and committed to these liquid fuels, it is not apparent why aviation should
get them, rather than more essential land based uses.
5. Jatropha is a toxic plant, and may damage the soil on which it grows. It is
also potentially toxic to people and wildlife that come into contact with it.
6. It can produce high oil content on marginal soils, but it produces much better
on better soil and with more water. In order to produce a commercially valuable
crop, it would be likely that growers would want to irrigate and improve the soil.
If that is the case, that same soil could better be used for human food growing,
or even animal food growing.
7. Every bit of land that could grow food crops that is taken over for non-food
crop use just increases the likelihood that even more land will have to be found
for food production. It can have a knock on effect, and that can inadvertently
damage biodiversity elsewhere, as other land is taken.
8. The industry would like people to think that there is a lot of unowned and
unused community lands out there, which could usefully be given over to crops
like jatropha. It appears from many organisations that this unused community
land is a bit of a myth, and it is often used by some of the poorest people for
grazing etc. New large, commercial jatropha plantations would throw these people
off their land.
9. If marginal land can indeed be made to grow a high oil crop, it would upset
many that this fuel – derived at some environmental cost – should be burned out
of the back of a jet, taking the affluent off on holiday, or to visit their second
10. The presumption is, and the aviation industry promotes this myth, that biofuels
have very low carbon emissions. This is often untrue, and some forms of biofuel
have quite high total lifetime carbon emissions.
11. The other aspect which the aviation industry conveniently ignores is that
at an altitude of 35,000 feet or so, aircraft emissions cause other climatic effects,
one of the most important being the creation of contrails and high cirrus cloud.
Therefore it is conventional (the DfT do so) to add a multiplier of x2 for these
non-CO2 effects. This is the same whether a plane burns biofuel, or fossil fuel.
The net effect of burning fuel in a plane engine at altitude is twice (maybe even
more) than burning that same fuel back down on the ground.
12. By comparison with even worse biofuels – coming from palm oil or from human
food plants – jatropha appears to be preferable. However, once the aviation industry
is allowed to expand using immense quantities of biofuels, this will not take
any pressure off land in danger of palm oil plantations. The jatropha thing is
just another set of risks and problems, and does not remove the danger of palm
13. The international aviation industry has said it will have only so-called
“carbon neutral growth” after 2020, if it is allowed to use a great deal of biofuel.
This also needs the industry to be able to buy offsets from elsewhere. It cannot
possibly grow in a carbon neutral way otherwise. The UK Committee on Climate
Change reported at the end of 2009, into the possible expansion of aviation in
the UK, and the carbon emission implication. They were not persuaded that the
industry would be able to use more than small amounts of biofuels.
14. A danger we all face is that the aviation industry wishes to expand, and
it is managing at present to put out hopeful, optimistic (and rather unrealistic)
aspirations for low carbon this and low carbon that. These need to be taken
with a pinch of salt, and seen as the industry spin that they are. Read them
carefully, between the lines.
More articles from the Ecologist:
New report by Friends of the Earth Europe says Jatropha fails to deliver
Date Added: 21st January 2011
The new report says the much-touted biofuel crop jatropha is neither a profitable nor a sustainable investment.
It provides growing evidence that the crop is failing to deliver on its promises
while simultaneously failing to prevent climate change or contribute to pro-poor
development. Many projects have already been abandoned because yields have stayed
below expectations, even on good soils. They say companies should stop land-grabbing
for jatropha. (FoE) Click here to view full story…
Germany joins up with Lufthansa to sponsor biofuel 6 times worse than fossil
Date Added: 20th April 2011
The German government is financing Lufthansa’s biofuel trials. A total €2.5 million of government money is being ploughed into the 6 month €6.6
million biofuel trial. A recent report by ActionAid and RSPB found that the development of jatropha
plantations would produce 2.5 – 6 times more greenhouse gas emissions than fossil
fuels. The German government is wasting taxpayers’ money on a technology that
has few environmental benefits, and does much harm.
Click here to view full story…
Biofuels transport targets are unethical, inquiry finds
Date Added: 14th April 2011
A new study by the Nuffield Council on Bioethics says the production of biofuels
to meet UK and European directives violates human rights, damages the environment,
and has led to problems of deforestation and the displacement of indigenous people.
Biofuels also contribute to poor harvests, commodity speculation and high oil
prices which raise the cost of fertilisers and transport. Targets had driven rapid
expansion in parts of the world with lower ethical standards. Click here to view full story…
Read more »
19.4.2011 (Green Air online)
by William McLennan
Campaigners are outraged over airline Lufthansa and German government funding
for jatropha biofuels trial
The German government is financing a leading European airline’s biofuel trials
despite claims from environmental groups it could cause emissions six time greater
than fossil fuels.
A total €2.5 million of government money is being ploughed into the six month
biofuel trial run by leading European airline Lufthansa, who will be partly financing
the €6.6 million project.
Attempts are being made to source jatropha oil for biofuel test flights which
aim ‘at reducing overall emissions in air traffic’. However, environmental groups
have raised concerns over the use of jatropha as a biofuel crop.
A recent report by ActionAid and RSPB found that the development of jatropha
plantations would produce 2.5 to six times more greenhouse gas emissions than
‘Jatropha is far from the ‘sustainable’ fuel that it is made out to be by the
aviation industry. In fact, it could end up increasing carbon emissions,’ says
Tim Rice, ActionAid’s biofuels expert.
Campaigners believe developing new jatropha plantations leads to the loss of
indigenous communities’ farmland and are making life more difficult for people
in less industrialised countries.
‘ActionAid’s work with local communities has also revealed how jatropha plantations
can create huge social upheaval, including loss of land, homes and livelihoods,’
The German government’s involvement with the biofuels test flights has been condemned
by environmental groups who believe it will have limited benefits for the environment.
‘By subsidising Lufthansa’s foray into biofuels, the German government is wasting
taxpayers’ money on a technology that has few public or environmental benefits,
and is harming communities in Africa and India whose land is being grabbed for
jatropha,’ says Robbie Blake, agrofuels campaigner at Friends of the Earth.
Despite allegations of land evictions and failed harvests globally, Lufthansa
aims to switch biofuel production from palm oil to jatropha and is attempting
to ‘collect every single jatropha nut in the market’, according to a Lufthansa
spokesperson. The airline hope the plant-based jet fuel, made by Finnish biofuel
giant Neste Oil, will contain up to 60% jatropha oil.
One engine of the Lufthansa Airbus A321 flying the Hamburg to Frankfurt route
will use a 50:50 mix of biofuel and traditional kerosene, during the six month
trial. Lufthansa claim 1,500 tonnes of CO2 emissions will be saved during the
trial and only sustainable sources of fuel will be used.
‘Our goal must be to achieve a positive contribution to the environment and save
CO2,’ said a Lufthansa spokesperson. ‘We are doing our best to consider all sustainability
aspects in our trial, which is supervised by external scientists. If we discover
that we cannot fulfil our strict sustainability requirements, we will react accordingly.’
However, the sustainability of growing both palm oil and jatropha for biofuels
has been questioned and campaigners believe it leads to widespread deforestation.
‘Lufthansa have evidently recognised the damage to people, rainforests and the
climate that using palm oil in their flights will cause. But switching from palm
oil to jatropha is like flying from the frying pan into the fire. Jatropha is
responsible for large-scale land grabbing in Africa and India, displacing local
communities and destroying their livelihoods – with no evidence of a reduction
in carbon,’ says Blake.
Friends of Earth Germany (Bund) say the recent decision by the German government
to phase out nuclear has created a general confusion about the country’s overall
renewable targets and that biofuels were now part of that confusion. ‘I am not
sure why the German government is supporting this project. Other than that they
are experimenting with biofuels, they have no real legitimisation to do this,’
says FOE Transport campaigner Werner Reh.
The German Environment ministry could not comment on the concerns about the use
of jatropha, saying there was ‘no uniform view at the moment’.
The Lufthansa biofuel flights are not likely to start till towards the end of
Click here to view full story…
Lufthansa biofuel flights postponed by certification delay
Date Added: 18th February 2011 Lufthansa has been forced to postpone its planned commercial biofuel flights by at least
a month because the fuel will not be certified in time by regulators. It planned to begin a 6-month trial in April, in which it aims to operate its Frankfurt-Hamburg
route using an International Aero Engine-powered Airbus A321 with one of its engines running on a 50/50 blend of biofuel from vegetable
oil and traditional kerosene. Now pushed back to end of May.
Germany joins up with Lufthansa to sponsor biofuel 6 times worse than fossil
Date Added: 20th April 2011 The German government is financing Lufthansa’s biofuel trials. A total €2.5 million
of government money is being ploughed into the 6 month €6.6 million biofuel trial.
A recent report by ActionAid and RSPB found that the development of jatropha plantations
would produce 2.5 – 6 times more greenhouse gas emissions than fossil fuels. The
German government is wasting taxpayers’ money on a technology that has few environmental
benefits, and does much harm. Click here to view full story…
Lufthansa first airline to use biofuel on commercial flights next spring
Date Added: 30th November 2010 In April 2011, Lufthansa is to begin a 6-month trial with an Airbus A321 on scheduled
commercial flights on the Hamburg-Frankfurt
route. Pending certification, one of the aircraft’s engines will use a 50-50
mix of biofuel and traditional kerosene. The purpose of the project is to conduct
a long term study on the effect of biofuel on engine maintenance and life. Lufthansa
is the first airline to test this fuel over a long period. The Federal Govt is
giving €2.5m for the Lufthansa project. Click here to view full story…
Biofuel approval nears, Lufhansa plans service trial in spring 2011 – fuel partly
from palm oil
Date Added: 29th November 2010 With the aviation fuels subcommittee of standards-setter ASTM to meet next week to decide on approval of bio-jet fuels, Lufthansa has announced
plans for a 6-month in-service trail of a 50:50 mix of biofuel and conventional
kerosene using an Airbus A321. ASTM has already approved 50% blends of synthetic
paraffinic kerosenes (SPKs) produced from coal, natural gas or biomass using the
Fischer-Tropsch process. The bio-SPKs may be next, by March 2011. Click here to view full story…