Out of the Deep Fat Fryer … Thomson Airways and its first biofuel flight

With Thomson Airways re-launching their attempts to get regular biofuels flights
from Birmingham Airport, green campaigners are raising concerns that new “Sustainable
Aviation Biofuels” are actually likely to be more damaging for the environment.
After dropping plans to fuel flights with used cooking oil due to insufficient
supply, Thomson are now going to be using virgin plant oil from a number of sources,
none of which should properly be classified as sustainable.


30.9.2011 (Birmingham Friends of the Earth)

With Thomson Airways re-launching their attempts to get regular biofuels flights
from Birmingham Airport, green campaigners are raising concerns that new “Sustainable
Aviation Biofuels” are actually likely to be more damaging for the environment.

After dropping plans to fuel flights with used cooking oil due to insufficient
supply, they are now going to be using virgin plant oil from a number of sources,
none of which would be classified by environmentalists as sustainable.

These include the Babassu nut, exploitation of which would require mass displacement
of indigenous people in South America and destruction of habitat essential for

Joe Peacock from Birmingham Friends of the Earth said “It’s hardly surprising
that they could not find that much cooking oil, as it is already much in demand.
Tokenistic efforts to appear greener are fooling nobody and are just an attempt
to get even more government subsidies into damaging the environment.

“We cannot ignore the massive environmental and social problems caused by trying
to feed our addiction to fossil fuels with plant-based alternatives.”

“Aviation is already the most under-taxed and over-subsidised industry, so we
should be looking to make sure it pays its fair share whilst becoming more environmentally
responsible, not subisidise it to create an even worse situation.”

Birmingham Friends of the Earth calls for a scrapping of all biofuel targets
and research to be done into the impacts of current EU Renewable Energy Directive.



Notes to Editors

Birmingham Friends of the Earth campaigns on many environmental issues on a local,
national and international level.

For more information on Birmingham Friends of the Earth’s stance on Aviation
issues, please visit

TUI Travel have released a briefing on biofuels: http://www.aef.org.uk/downloads/TUI_(Thomson)_Aviation_Biofuels_Briefing_Paper%20Sept%202011.pdf 

More information on the Babassu nut can be found here: http://ipsnews.net/news.asp?idnews=104818 

Friends of the Earth’s latest briefing on biofuels is available at: http://www.foe.co.uk/resource/briefing_notes/biofuels_in_2011_gathering.pdf



see also


Thomson Airways plans its biofuel flight on 6th October, using a mix of oils
as sufficient used cooking oil was not available

Date Added: 29th September 2011

Thomson will be flying its delayed first biofuel flight on 6th Oct from Birmingham
to Arrecife. It was delayed from 28th July when supplies of used cooking oil could
not be obtained in time. Thomson has put out a position paper on biofuels. Like
other airlines, is getting a test flight with biofuels, hoping to persuade its
customers and government that it is being “green” and environmentally responsible.
Thomson hopes to have a daily flight using biofuel.

Click here to view full story…


and earlier


Thomson Airways’ 50% cooking oil biofuel flight grounded after fuel delivery

The UK’s first commercial flight powered by “sustainable” biofuels has been postponed
after delivery problems. Thomson Airways’ flight TOM7424 from Birmingham to Palma
was scheduled for 28th July.  However, the airline said the green fuel pilot had
been scraped as a delay beyond their control during the transportation of the
fuel from the USA meant the testing process could not be done in time for the
flight. Will probably take  place in September.   Click here to view full story…

Read more »

Thomson Airways plans its biofuel flight on 6th October, using a mix of oils as sufficient used cooking oil was not available


Thomson Airways has put out a press release saying that it will be flying the
delayed first biofuel flight on 6th October.  It was delayed from 28th July, (see
below) when fuel supplies could not be obtained in time.  Also a position paper on
biofuels.  Thomson, like a lot of other airlines, is getting a test flight with biofuels
done as soon as it can, hoping to persuade its customers and the government that
it is being “green” and environmentally responsible.
Thomson is then hoping to have a flight each day using biofuel.


Position paper on the introduction of biofuels into the Thomson Airways fleet  from Thomson

AirportWatch comment on the proposed Thomson biofuel flights:
Thomson, like a lot of other airlines, is getting a test flight with biofuels
done as soon as it can, hoping to persuade its customers and the government that
it is being “green” and environmentally responsible. 
Thomson is then hoping to have a flight each day using biofuel.
This is largely a PR exercise, possibly intended to show DfT that UK aviation
business is taking a serious look at sustainability, so they can buddy up with
the DfT in its development of UK future policy for aviation (aka more flights). They
may think it will help DfT sell the idea of sustainable aviation to sceptics.

They initially said they would be choosing jet fuel made from used cooking oil. 
Now they concede that they need to use virgin plant oil, too.  Used cooking oil
is is not a realistic option for more than a few token flights, as there are not
sufficient supplies of the oil, and these are already bought up and used for biodiesel
for road vehicles, and for a host of other terrrestrial uses. 

There is no way that used cooking oil and tallow can provide fuel at sufficient
volumes to fly planes. Ask yourself – how much olive / sunflower oil do you buy
in a year, and how much do you throw away?  Or how many chips do you eat in a
year, in how many deep fat friers?  All of the available used cooking oil in the
UK is already going into road transport biodiesel and we import it from places
like USA and the Netherlands. There is no spare supply of unwanted used cooking
oil that the aviation industry can just plug into.  It is almost all being used

The authors of the position paper ignore any ‘collateral damage’ from biofuel
production, such as damage to people whose land is taken to grow crops, or whose
livelihoods are negatively affected by biofuel plantations. Also the damage to
global biodiversity and habitats. This may be cynical or just wilful ignorance. 
One would hope that the DfT are not so naive as to be unduly influenced by this
very lightweight piece of work.

Thomson are now considering other sources of jet fuel, including worryingly,
babassu nut.  They seem to have have avoided mention of jatropha, which has not
had a particularly good press recently.  Its star status has crashed remarkably
in the past months.  And no mention so far of palm oil, which is by far the most
widely available and cheapest biofuel – which also causes huge environmental and
social problems.

The Babassu nut idea is dubious. Although there are estimated to be billions
of such trees growing wild mainly in Brazil, they are low yielding and processing Babassu
nuts for large volumes of oil looks rather problematic according to this UNFAO paper at
http://www.fao.org/docrep/X5043E/x5043E04.htm and an excerpt and more information on babassu below.
Of course if the biofuel industry want to make babassu oil work at large scale,
they will be developing monoculture plantations with similar issues to those growing
palm oil. The Babassu palm needs a tropical climate. The yield is probably only about
1 tonne of oil per hectarre, which is about a quarter of that for palm oil.
But perhaps the most worrying aspect of the Thomson / TUI position paper is its
lobbying the UK and other  European governments, as well as the EU, for subsidies
and other financial assistance. They want subsidies for
for aviation biofuel research,  for developing aviation biofuel infrastructure
for “biojet”and even a subsidy on the aviation biofuel itself.  This would come
from the pockets of the taxpayer.
The also suggest that EU ETS money should be partly given to biofuel incentives etc as above. And they
want aviation to get a system like the road transport Renewable Transport Fuels
Obligation (RTFO) Order.  Presumably with % aviation biofuel targets.  These targets
are already providing to be immensely damaging, and ill advised in the case of
road fuels. Even more so for aviation jet fuel. This needs to be strenuously opposed.
Thomson do not appear in the least aware of the indirect land use implications
of using biofuels.  This explicit commitment by Thomson to use biofuels, with
indrect land use implications, is yet another example of the 
lack of joined up thinking coming from the aviation industry. The DfT Aviation
Scoping Document consultation is a good opportunity to point this out, and clearly
put the counter-opinions. 


Thomson Airways’ 50% cooking oil biofuel flight grounded after fuel delivery

27.7.2011 The UK’s first commercial flight powered by “sustainable” biofuels
has been postponed after delivery problems. Thomson Airways’ flight TOM7424 from
Birmingham to Palma was scheduled for 28th July.  However, the airline said the
green fuel pilot had been scraped as a delay beyond their control during the transportation
of the fuel from the USA meant the testing process could not be done in time for
the flight. Will probably take  place in September.   Click here to view full story…


Thomson Airways website, dated 26.9.2011, says:

Thomson Airways – Sustainable Aviation Biofuels

Which flights will be using sustainable biofuel?

The first commercial flight in the UK using sustainable biofuel will commence
from Birmingham to Arrecife on the 6th of October. Daily operations will begin
in early 2012. Will you experience anything different during the flight?

Quite simply, no. This will be a normal flight for you, just one that’s lighter
on the environment.

What is sustainable aviation biofuel?

Sustainable aviation biofuel is a high quality jet fuel made from bio-derived
oil, i.e. oil from plants such as jatropha, halophytes and camelina or from waste
material such as used cooking oil.

Has the sustainable aviation biofuel been tested?

Yes, sustainable aviation biofuel has been rigorously tested to ensure that it’s
completely safe, and has been fully certified and signed off for use in aircraft.

Testing process

*Given the high quality required of any fuels used in aircraft, the process of
testing new fuels is particularly rigorous. Through testing in laboratories, in
equipment on the ground and under the extreme operating conditions that the aviation
industry requires, an exhaustive process determines those sustainable aviation
biofuels that are suitable for aviation.

*In the laboratory researchers develop a sustainable aviation biofuel that has similar properties
to traditional jet fuel. The aircraft and engine manufacturers and other systems
suppliers then run compatibility tests.

*On the ground tests look at specific fuel consumption at several power settings from ground
idle to take-off speed, which is then compared to performance with traditional
jet fuel. Tests are also completed on the amount of time it takes for the engine
to start, how well the fuel stays ignited in the engine and how the fuel performs
in acceleration and deceleration. Finally, an emissions test determines the emissions
and smoke levels for the sustainable aviation biofuel.

*Once the lab and on-the-ground tests have been completed, the fuel’s ready to
be tested on aircraft under normal operating conditions. A number of airlines
have provided aircraft for sustainable aviation biofuel flight trials designed

- Provide data to support fuel qualification and certification for use by the aviation industry

- Demonstrate that sustainable aviation biofuel is safe and that it works

*During a test flight, pilots perform a number of ordinary and not-so-ordinary tests to ensure the
fuel can withstand use under any operating conditions.

*Boeing and Rolls Royce are completely confident in the safe use of sustainable
aviation biofuel. Boeing has already done several test flights using Rolls Royce
engines. In June 2011 Boeing performed the first trans-Atlantic flight arriving
from Washington State at the Paris Airshow.

What is the sustainable aviation biofuel that we’ll be using made of?

Sustainable aviation biofuel can be made from a variety of plant-based or waste
products. The feedstock that we’ll be using is used cooking oil. Used cooking
oil is a pure waste stream, and as such has high sustainability potential.

Why is sustainable aviation biofuel considered to be more sustainable than normal
jet fuel?

Using a sustainable resource to produce a fuel rather than a non-renewable fossil
source means that we minimise our impact on the environment.

It saves CO2 emissions

Sustainable aviation biofuel has the potential to save as much as 80% of CO2
emissions compared with traditional jet fuel. Simply put, this is because plants
take CO2 out of the atmosphere whilst they grow.

It can create work in developing countries

There are many different potential plant and waste sources for sustainable aviation
biofuel, meaning that it can be grown in locations almost worldwide, and can therefore
create work and income for people in developing countries.

How is sustainable aviation biofuel different from road based biodiesel?

‘First generation’ biofuel, such as biodiesel, has been used for a number of years. First generation biofuels
are not considered to be very sustainable as they are most commonly made from
‘food’ crops such as sugars.

‘Second generation’ biofuel, such a sustainable aviation biofuel, are made from sources that do not compete
with food crops, for example camelina which is grown as a rotational crop, or
algae that grows in the sea. It can also be made from waste material such as used
cooking oil.

You may have heard of a thing called FAME which is associated with biodiesel.
FAME is a fatty acid that can clog filters and isn’t allowed in jet fuel. Sustainable
aviation biofuel doesn’t contain any FAME. This means that we don’t have any of
the mechanical issues in aircraft that some people may have experienced in their
cars with biodiesel.


The fruits have a hard thick shell (averaging 5cm in diameter) which is difficult
to crack by machine. It is estimated that a pressure of approxi mately 1 tonne
is needed to crack the shells open. While mechanical crackers have been developed
their weight and power requirements have in general made them inappropriate for
use in Babassu growing areas. As 1 tonne of nuts only yields 120 kg of kernels
transportation of whole nuts to crackers has also proved impractical. In most
areas the kernels are extracted locally by hand. The National Academy of Sciences
estimates that this hand cracking accounts for 57% of the total processing cost.
(Anon) It is important that the seeds are dried before decortication. If they
have a high moisture content damage, occurring during the process, can initiate
enzy matic activity and cause rancidity in the oil.

Decorticating is usually carried out at home although some women do remove the
kernels in the forest. The fruit is placed on a hatchet blade or an axe and is
hit with a wooden club until it splits. The broken pieces are in turn hit against
the blade to dislodge the kernels. Most people can extract 3-5 kg kernels per
day and a good worker can sometimes extract up to 10 kg.

A small proportion of the kernels extracted (0.7 kg per household during peak
harvest period) is used domestically. The rest are sold immediately after cracking.

The UN FAO paper also states that Babassu production starts at about 8 years,
so if this is to provide meaningful feedstock for aviation this decade, large
scale planting would have to be underway already.  It will take time go gear up.
Interestingly, wild Babassu use has a history of social conflict going back 30
years – see this Practical Action site  http://stepin.org/casestudy.php?id=babassuoil&page=2     and Oxfam –
It seems pretty certain that Thomson will source their babassu nuts from a Brazilian
firm called Tecbio, which has signed a cooperation agreement with Boeing, partners
in Thomson’s biofuel scheme.

And here is an article about the 400,000 women and their families in Brazil whose
livelihoods depend on bababassu and who are under serious threat from bioenergy
developments including by Tecbio:
http://ipsnews.net/news.asp?idnews=104818 .

Read more »

Chinese airline aims for biofuel flight this year using jatropha

27.9.2011 (Airport Business)

Boeing China planning to make biofuel-powered jets

BOEING CHINA announced on Wednesday it plans to use biofuel as aircraft power
for the first time and to launch the maiden flight of such a plane later this
year, in conjunction with Civil Aviation Administration of China and AIR CHINA. 
 The use of bio-fuel is a complicated chain, involving planting the raw material
and extracting fuel after the harvest.

As one of the most important partners for Chinese aviation industry, Boeing has
been focusing on innovation as the core strategy in recent years, setting up three
laboratories in Shanghai, Beijing-based Qinghua University and Qingdao.

According to an official with Boeing China, there are 35 Chinese suppliers for
Boeing so far, making parts for all series of Boeing aircrafts including the 787
and 747-800.




Biofuels’ Potential to Transform the Global Economy

1.8.2011 (Energy Collective)

which includes this excerpt below:

Fast forward to this March, when a European consortium of Airbus, Romanian state-owned
airline Tarom, Honeywell’s UOP and CCE (Camelina Company España) announced plans
to establish a bio-fuel production center in Romania to manufacture civil aviation
fuel, using camelina as a feedstock.

Farther east, last month China National Petroleum Corp. announced that it had
delivered 15 tons of jatropha oil to help Air China operate the country’s maiden
biofuel-powered test flight, tentatively scheduled for later this year. According
to a posting on its website, CNPC, Asia’s largest oil producer, is proving that
it has the ability to produce biofuel from non-grain feedstocks to clean up the

On Monday, Mozambique’s Agencia Informacao Mocambique news agency announced that
Sun Biofuels Mozambique, a subsidiary of U.K.-based Sun Biofuels, has exported
the first batch of 30 tons of jatropha oil produced from its fields in the central
Mozambican province of Manica to Germany’s Lufthansa airline.

The biggest single impetus to the development of biofuels for civil aviation
occurred on 8 June, when the international standards certifying body ASTM International
announced its approval of its BIO SPK Fuel Standard, to be made official later
in the year, allowing the use of hydro-treated renewable jet (HRJ) Jet A-1 fuel
in commercial aviation.

Currently these biofuels are “drop ins,” and must be blended in a 50-50 mixture
with Jet A-1 fuel derived from traditional fossil fuel kerosene.

The biggest single independent meant at present to a wide scale production of
jet biofuel is its inordinate cost. Biojet fuel delivered last year to the U.S.
armed forces for evaluation cost more than $70 a gallon to produce, a price which
obviously makes it at present supremely uncompetitive with fuel derived from traditional
hydrocarbon sources. Supporters of biofuel production argue that processing costs
will decrease in direct proportion to rising volumes of production.

Both Brazil and the United States have viable biofuel production in the form
of ethanol, in the case of Brazil derived from sugar cane, in the United States,
produced from corn.







Air Transport World


Air China plans transpacific biofuel test flight in 2011

PetroChina will provide jatropha-based feedstock for the project. The flight
would follow a number of biofuel test flights conducted by airlines worldwide,
including Air New Zealand, Continental Airlines, Japan Airlines (ATW Daily News, Feb. 2, 2009) and TAM (ATW Daily News, Nov. 24, 2010).

Lufthansa plans to launch the world’s first scheduled commercial passenger flights
using biofuel in the first half of this year, with an IAE-V2500-powered Airbus
A321(ATW Daily News, Nov. 30, 2010).



30.8.2011 (The Energy Collective)

 by John Daly

China Takes Recycled Fry-Oil Biofuels To Scale

a few extracts below:

According to a recent article in the People’s Daily, Beijing’s 19 million inhabitants
are seeing the grease used to fry up their dim sum and other delicacies carted
off by eight licensed collectors of used cooking oil, known as “hogwash,” for
recycling into biofuel.


Beijing Hailianghongxin Bioenergy Ltd.’s collected hogwash oil is transported
to a refinery in Gu’an county in Hebei province, owned by Gu’an Zhongde Lihua
Petrochemical Co, the largest hogwash-to-biodiesel processing company in Beijing,
and processed into biodiesel.

Hogwash oil is extracted from rotten pork and peroxided oil, used repeatedly
in frying.


More ominously for China’s illicit hogwash oil trade long term prospects, KLM
Royal Dutch Airlines has recently successfully tested hogwash oil biofuel derivatives
as a possible Jet A-1 “drop in” civilian airplane fuel.




and more on China and biofuels (2009)


DOE Secretary Chu breaks with Obama over energy policy; aviation turns to China
for biofuels capacity development



In related news, Boeing confirmed that it has commenced talks with the Chinese
Academy of Sciences and “several Chinese universities” about a potential development
of low-carbon aviation biofuels.
CCTV is reporting that near-term opportunities for collaboration between Boeing
and China’s alternative energy industry
could focus on jatropha development in Yunnan, Sichuan and Guizhou provinces
and Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region. According to Xinhua News Agency, China is
projecting “13 million hectares of biofuel plantations by 2020,” primarily to
meet increased internal energy needs.

Meanwhile, a meeting of leading biofuels scientists has been called in Beijing
this fall that will provide advice to Chinese ministries preparing for an upcoming
state visit of US President Barack Obama, with energy issues reported to be high
on the agenda for the summit meeting. The US President, whose official policy
calls for strong investments in solar, wind, and biomass as well as electric car
infrastructure, and whose administration is the largest shareholder in the largest
US maker of flex-fuel vehicles (General Motors), will head to China with his energy
message in potential disarray.

Both aviation and biofuels industry leaders have expressed concern that the capacity
to manufacture the advanced, drop-in biofuels along timelines required by the
aviation industry and emissions policy, will require state intervention to provide,
and according to energy lobbyist Curt Rich, “no biofuels project is going to get
a DOE loan guarantee based on the current DOE interpretation of US energy policy.”



Read more »

Biofuels May Push 120 Million Into Hunger, Qatar’s Shah Says


Biofuel policies in countries from Australia to the U.S. may push 120 million people into hunger by 2050 while doing little
to halt climate change, said Mahendra Shah, an advisor to Qatar’s food security

So-called first-generation biofuels produced from commodity crops compete with
food for land use and fertilizers, resulting in higher grain prices and increased
deforestation, Shah said at the MENA Grains Summit in Istanbul today.

World food output will have to rise by at least 70 percent by 2050 to feed a
growing world population, according to Shah. The use of crops for biofuels is
forecast to raise food prices by 30 percent to 50 percent in that period, Shah
said, citing a study by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries
Fund for International Development, or OFID.

“The first generation, we should never have done it,” said Shah, a policy advisor.
“Biofuels will trigger an increase in agricultural prices. Biofuels will result
in another 120 million people hungry, just because we’re growing biofuels.”

Shah said the world food system is in crisis because natural resources are limited,
land quality is worsening and water is scarce, meaning high food prices are here
to stay.

“The era of low food prices that we saw until the beginning of the millennium
is over,” Shah said. “We’re not going to go back to an era of declining prices.”

Government plans to boost ethanol and biodiesel production and mandates on using
them in transport fuel will increase deforestation by between 20 million and 24
million hectares (49 milion to 59 million acres) by 2050 and increase fertilizer
use by 10 million tons, the OFID study showed, according to Shah.

Biofuels Versus Food

“Biofuels are also starting to compete with food use, and the question is, how
far we will take these biofuels?” Shah said. “If you look at the cereal price
index itself, prices will increase substantially over the period. We know that
the first generation is not sustainable in the long run.”

In the U.S., 40 percent of the corn crop is used to make ethanol, and rising
corn prices because of the increased demand are also lifting wheat and rice prices,
according to Shah.

“If you suck corn out of a country’s market like in the U.S. it will affect the
amount of corn available for human consumption but also feed,” the adviser said.

Climate-change mitigation from biofuels will be “very limited” before 2050, partly because
the corn and sugar cane used to make fuel are high in nitrogen-fertilizer consumption,
according to Shah.

“We will make no greenhouse-gases savings for the next 20 years by implementing
biofuel policies, because they are working with first-generation crops,” Shah
said. “It particularly defeats the whole purpose of saying we’ll use biofuels
to reduce climate change.”

Fuel Security

Growing crops for biofuels to reduce reliance on oil may result in 6 percent
to 12 percent transport-fuel security in 2030 and 2050, according to Shah.

“If we focused on efficiency in energy use, within less than five years we could
reach efficiency savings of 20 percent to 30 percent,” Shah said, adding
energy efficiency should be a priority.

The greatest potential for renewable transport fuels to mitigate climate change
is in so-called third-generation biofuels produced from non-crop sources such
as algae, according to Shah. In the meantime, first-generation biofuels won’t
go away, he said.

“The fact remains that those people who invested in factories to process corn
into biofuels are going to buy corn at any price,” Shah said. “Industrialists
have invested, they’re not going to step back.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Rudy Ruitenberg in Istanbul at rruitenberg@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Claudia Carpenter at ccarpenter2@bloomberg.net.


Read more »

Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division Flies Harrier on 50% Biofuel Blend

    The NAWCWD performed the first bio-fuel flight test in an AV-8B Harrier on 21st
September, over NAWCWD’s land ranges in the upper Mojave Desert. The Harrier was
put through a range of testing manoeuvres, and performed without problems. There
were no anomalies detected that would prevent the Navy from using the biofuels
blend for the AV-8B.  The US military are at the forefront of work on aviation
biofuels, so they are not dependent on conventional oil imports.
VX-31 Flies Harrier on Biofuel Blend for the First Time
(The type of biofuel is not mentioned).
26.9.2011 (ASDN – Aerospace and Defense News – USA)

Enlarge image - VX-31 Flies Harrier on Biofuel Blend for the First Time

China Lake, Calif. – 
Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division (NAWCWD), China Lake performed the
first bio-fuel flight test in AV-8B Harrier #88, Sept. 21 over NAWCWD’s land ranges
in the upper Mojave Desert.

After preliminary ground test events earlier in the week, the Harrier was flown
by Maj. Gary “Mouth” Shill, a pilot from Air Test and Evaluation Squadron (VX)
31 at NAWCWD. According to Hal Bennett, project lead for the AV-8B bio fuel flight
test program, the testing was flawless. Harrier #88 rolled down the runway several
hundred feet before a short take off, then accelerated into a maximum performance
climb. Testing included phasing maneuvers, hard cranks, wind up turns, hard turns
with nozzle biting and even some inverted flight.

“We usually have small challenges in a test flight,” Bennett stated, “but not
on this one. We hit all the points – collecting the numbers and rolling through
the complete card deck in an hour. It was very successful.”

The last portion of the flight included performance hover maneuvers. The Harrier
came in slow, about 100 feet off the ground, into a hover,” said Bennett. “It
hovered for about two minutes to establish some engine performance parameters
– to see how powerful the engine was at a given temperature. Shill depressed the
rudders and moved the ailerons to check and validate the pitch, roll, yaw and
hover characteristics. This allowed him to monitor and evaluate what impacts the
‘bleed air’ usage had upon engine performance. Again, no anomalies noted.”

The test concluded when the pilot conducted a vertical landing and idled the
motor a short time to let it cool. Shill said the Harrier performed on the 50/50
blend as it does with standard JP8. “There were no anomalies that I detected that
would prevent the Navy from using the biofuels blend for the AV-8B,” he said.

“The instrumentation worked flawlessly,” Bennett said. “We conducted the test,
captured the data and then debriefed. The NAWCWD Range Control Center folks were
terrific. We usually have challenges during a test flight, but this whole thing
went according to script.”


Read more »

Aviation industry going to biofuels made from alcohols, some from food crops

Jet fuel can be made by combining two alcohol molecules. The aviation biofuel
industry can see there will be a time delay in getting fuel from jatropha, camelia
etc but it could produce fuel from alcohol faster. Some from corn or sugar cane,
as well as non-food crops and woody biomass. Aviation accounts for 12% of the
fuel used by the entire transport sector. Global aviation fuel demand may reach
7.6 million barrels/day in 2012, up from 6.8 m barrels in 2007.

Fly the (hic!) friendly skies: renewable jet fuel from alcohol

14.9.2011  (Biofuels Digest)
Making renewable jet fuel from booze…uh, alcohol…is the latest drop-in biofuels
craze. Who is doing what, with whom, and when? And how do they do it?


When most of us think of highly customized aviation alcohols, we probably think
of the little bottles of Johnnie Walker. But a handful of companies such as Cobalt,
Gevo, Terrabon, LanzaTech and ZeaChem, are shaking up the emerging aviation biofuels
markets by developing renewable aviation fuels from ethanol and/or biobutanol.

It’s been an improbable mission, but a handful are getting close enough that
we had better explain the background before they achieve massive scale.

Um, how do you make jet fuel from alcohol?

“An alcohol molecule, looking at it one way, is really just a hydrocarbon carrying
this extra OH [a hydroxyl group] on its back,” explains LanzaTech CEO Jennifer
Holmgren. So, chemically reforming alcohol into jet fuel is not a bizarre form
of medieval alchemy.

But in the process, you generally need two ethanol molecules to make a jet fuel molecule, so unless you are interested in trying to sell $6 jet fuel, you had better start
with something that produces much better than $3 ethanol.

For that reason,alcohol to jet fuel should be properly seen as a niche market
for ethanol producers – but, owning to the early interest in jet fuels from both
commercial airline and the military, one that may break out towards commercial
scale faster, for some companies, faster than their efforts to make commercial-scale
ethanol fuel.

Isobutanol and n-butanol, as made by Gevo, Cobalt and Butamax, is an alcohol
with special applications in jet fuel because it is a four-carbon molecule to
begin with. Back in 2009,
Gevo opined that the first “Sasol Synthetic Jet was C12‐ centered isoparaffin
mixture with similar properties”
to Gevo’s jet fuel blend stock. Gevo said at the time that its jet fuel met
all ASTM specifications except a slight miss on fuel density, and blended with
25% Jet A it met all specs. Gevo also indicated that it could make a jet fuel
blend stock at an operating cost equivalent to $65 oil.

The feedstock dilemma

For all the excitement over Hydroprocessed Esters and Fatty Acids” (HEFA) fuels,
recently approved as a jet fuel spec by ASTM, and now already used in a 50/50
blend with conventional fossil aviation fuels on commercial flights operated by
Lufthansa and KLM, alcohol fuels have the attraction of opening up a more feasible
pool of feedstocks.

The achilles heel of HEFA fuel is the problem of getting enough fuel made from
camelina, algae, jatropha or other non-food renewable oil sources. All three feedstocks
check out brilliantly under operating conditions, but camelina and algae are in
their infancy in terms of production at commercial scale; jatropha is much farther
along, but is far from providing anywhere near the 30 billion gallons of biofuel
the aviation industry would buy tomorrow, if the price and performance is on par
with fossil fuels.

On the alcohol side, there is the tantalizing prospect of traditional feedstocks
like corn and cane, energy crops like miscanthus and switchgrass, or low-cost
feedstocks like municipal solid waste or agricultural waste such as bagasse or
corn stover. Not to mention the possibilities of utilizing woody biomass.

Progress to date

DARPA jumped into the file this year by funding a clutch of projects.

Terrabon was awarded a $9.6 million, 18-month contract by Logos Technologies
to design a more economical and renewable jet fuel production solution for the
Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. Started in April of 2011, a customized
production process for DARPA will be engineered, constructed and operated at Terrabon’s
Bryan, TX demonstration facility in an effort to yield 6,000 liters of jet fuel
through the use of the company’s advanced bio-refining technology MixAlco, in
preparation for commercialization of this technology.

“An important focus of this DARPA effort is to produce a sustainable, cost-effective,
non-fossil-fuel-based solution to support the military’s jet fuel needs. We thoroughly
reviewed many potential processes and solutions for this initiative, and came
to the conclusion that this goal can best be achieved with help of Terrabon and
their mixed alcohol oligomerization pathway, MixAlco,” said Dr. Greg Poe, CEO,
Logos Technologies.

MixAlco converts low-cost, readily available, non-food, non-sterile biomass into
valuable chemicals such as acetic acid, ketones and alcohols that can be processed
into renewable fuels.

LanzaTech was also awarded DARPA funds to perform research focused on novel,
low-cost routes to production of jet fuel from carbon monoxide sources. The LanzaTech
project will focus on reducing the cost of alcohol intermediates, which will be
thermochemcally converted to JP-8 renewable jet fuel.

At the time, LanzaTech CEO Dr. Jennifer Holmgren said that the economics of alcohol-to-jet
fuel are driven by the cost of alcohol intermediates – LanzaTech’s technology,
which produces alcohols by gas fermentation of CO-rich feedstocks such as industrial
off-gases, has the potential to be an economically and environmentally sound approach
to alternative aviation fuels.

Over in Colorado, Gevo announced it has signed an engineering and consulting
agreement with Mustang Engineering to convert Gevo’s renewable isobutanol to bio-jet
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.

Once completed successfully, the company will initiate jet engine testing with
engine manufacturers. Mustang is a global project management, engineering, procurement,
and construction operations company serving the upstream oil and gas, refining
and chemicals, pipeline, automation and control, and industrial markets.

In Oregon, ZeaChem is proposing a 15 million gallon jet fuel output from its
proposed integrated biorefinery in Boardman, Oregon (which would, alternatively,
be able to produce 25 million gallons of ethanol), and said that it can have such
capacity ready by 2014.

Also, there is the California-based Byogy Renewables, whose CEO KEvin Weiss is
chairing the ASTM committee on alcohol-to-jet specs. Byogy’s edge? It has a process
that converts the alcohols to jet fuel, and like several advanced biofuels companies,
has opened up a division based in Brazil.


In the case of LanzaTech, the company has signaled that it expects to be able
to produce up to 15 billion gallons of renewable jet fuel (yes, that’s “billion”)
from existing steel waste gases that are generally flared after being generated
in blast furnaces, at an operating cost of $1.50 for the alcohol, suggesting a
cost range of around $3 per gallon for jet fuel. Even adding in capital costs
and margin, it’s getting to be in the ballpark of conventional fuel costs. LanzaTech
is expecting to have its first 100 million gallon facility (ethanol) completed
in China in 2013.

Test results

At the Paris Air Show this past summer, Gevo presented test results conducted
by SRI International and the Air Force Research Lab to the alcohol jet review
(ATJ) committee of ASTM. The next step in the ATJ specification will be work with
engine manufacturers to complete commercial engine testing.


Full certification of ATJ is expected in 2013, by which time Gevo expects to
have 110 million gallons of isobutanol capacity for use in the jet fuel and chemical
markets. United Airlines and Gevo have previously signed a non-binding offtake
agreement from ORD, starting in 2013.

The market and drivers for aviation fuels

Worldwide demand for aviation fuels is growing fast, primarily due to growth
in the robust Chinese aviation market. According to the International Energy Agency,
aviation fuel demand will reach “7.6 million barrels per day in 2012, up from
about 6.8 million barrels per day in 2007″. That translates into 116 billion gallons
of jet fuel, globally, by 2012.

Aviation accounts for 12% of the fuel consumed by the entire transportation sector,
which is equivalent to roughly 1.5 to 1.7 billion barrels of kerosene annually
(about 70 billion gallons).

Analysts project that aviation biofuels will replace roughly 1% of kerosene by
2015, 25% by 2025, and 30% by 2030. This represents a market value of US $2 billion,
$56 billion, and $68 billion in delivered fuel respectively, assuming current
kerosene prices.

The emissions driver for renewable fuels

Among demand drivers for Bio-SPK are the prospect of big carbon credit payments
by airlines operating into, out of, or within Europe. Commencing in January 2012,
the airline industry is scheduled to enter into the EU Emissions Trading Scheme,
which will cap carbon emission levels, and is expected to cost airlines up to
$19 billion in 2012 alone, according to a March report from Point Carbon.

The bottom line

So there you have it – from hooch to jet fuel, by the numbers. Generally, expect
a fuel spec to be OKd in 2013, and fuel contracts to ramp up significantly in
this decade. Not every producer is going to target ATJ – most companies make alcohol
too expensively to make jet fuel work, and those that have transformatively low
operating costs for alcohol production may simply focus more on the road transportation
markets where mandates can create higher per-BTU prices for selling ethanol fuel
than jet fuel.

Two huge variables – the underlying price of conventional jet fuel, and the impact
of low-carbon standards. If the trends on oil prices and carbon work out as expected,
ATJ [Alcohol to Jet] could well be the major driver of aviation biofuel supply
between now and the late 2010s or early 2020s when platforms such as jatropha
and algae get more traction.




see also


Next Generation Jet Fuels

Next Generation Jet Fuels

22.6.2011  (Scoop business, New Zealand)

Auckland, New Zealand June 22, 2011: Clean energy technology company LanzaTech is at the world’s largest air show in Paris showing the aviation industry its technology for producing next generation jet

Dr Jennifer Holmgren, LanzaTech’s chief executive, says the aviation industry
(both its commercial and military sectors) is keen to reduce its carbon footprint
and is looking to low carbon fuels as an element of a basket of solutions to help
achieve that target.

LanzaTech has just been awarded funds from the United States’ Defense Advanced
Research Projects Agency (
DARPA) to perform research focusing on novel, low cost routes for the production of
jet fuel (JP-8) from carbon monoxide (CO) rich sources.


The project will focus on technology development to reduce costs for producing
alcohol intermediates, which will be thermochemically converted to JP-8.

“The Department of Defense has set ambitious targets for alternative fuel use
with the Air Force goal of 50% alternative fuel use in all its domestic flights,
and the Navy’s objective to use 50% alternative fuel across all of its operations
by 2020,” Dr Holmgren says.  

Alternative aviation fuels are a key theme at the Paris Air Show this year. The
New Zealand founded Lanzatech is part of the global exhibition showcase.

Dr Holmgren says biofuels produced through hydroprocessing of lipids recently
received approval by ASTM (American Society of Testing and Materials). The next
biofuel expected to be certified will be fuel prepared from alcohols. LanzaTech
is represented on an alcohols-to-jet (ATJ) task force, which is working on the
certification process.

The efficient conversion of alcohols to aviation fuel has already been demonstrated
by a number of groups. Dr Holmgren says a number of those routes for converting
alcohols produce aromatics not just isoparaffins, which means there is a possibility
of longer term certifying a fully synthetic aviation fuel (not just a blend stock).

“There is a need to stabilize the price of aviation fuel, which can only happen
if there is more than one source of such fuels,” Dr Holmgren says. “However, the
rapid adoption of alternative aviation fuels requires that they be sustainable
in all dimensions – environmental, social and economic.

“LanzaTech provides a sustainable, cost-competitive route to drop-in hydrocarbon
fuels by producing alcohols from CO-rich feedstocks, such as industrial off gases
that have no impact on food or water security.”

Dr Holmgren says LanzaTech’s approach for the production of alcohols also results
in a cost effective final aviation fuel.

“In order to deliver cost competitive aviation fuels from alcohols, the price
of the alcohol must be driven to a very low number,” she says. “The reason for
this is that ethanol to jet conversion requires that two gallons of alcohol be
converted per gallon of jet fuel produced. Therefore the alcohol must be produced
at a low enough cost that the 2x factor on a per gallon basis doesn’t make the
aviation fuel cost prohibitive.

“We believe that there are a number of handles which can further reduce the price
of our alcohol such that the final aviation fuel will be cost competitive with
petroleum derived fuels without incentives. DARPA’s support will enable us to
continue to improve the economics of this unique technology platform, leading
to an economically and environmentally sound approach to alternative aviation





Read more »

US and Australia sign key aviation biofuels accord

The US FAA and Australia’s Department of Resources, Energy and Tourism have reached
a Memorandum of Understanding to continue research and development of biofuels.
The MOU calls for both countries to exchange information about policies, programs,
projects, etc and to conduct joint studies in areas such as fuel sources and environmental
impacts. One of the areas of concern and focus is feedstock readiness – if producers
can ramp up on scale fast enough.

19.9.2011 (Biofuels Digest)

Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) covers feedstock readiness, sustainability,
data sharing, fuels certification, plus development of new alternative fuel pathways
in alcohol conversion, pyrolysis and synthetic biology.

Is the agreement, driven by the private sector and formalized by government,
a template for agreements to foster aviation biofuels around the world?

In San Francisco, the U.S. FAA and Australia’s Department of Resources, Energy
and Tourism have reached a Memorandum of Understanding to continue research and
development of clean, sustainable alternative aviation fuels.

U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood and Australian Ambassador to the
United States Kim Beazley signed the agreement at the APEC (Asia Pacific Economic
Cooperation) Transport & Energy Ministers Ministerial Conference Summit meetings
in San Francisco.

The MOU calls for Australia and the United States to exchange information about policies, programs, projects, research results,
and publications
, and to conduct joint studies in areas such as fuel sources and environmental
impacts. The memorandum also facilitates analysis of fuel source supply chains. 
The signing nations agree to cover the associated costs.

“Air travel is global and we need international partners to develop these innovative
new fuels,” Secretary LaHood told reporters. “Our ultimate goal is to work with
all of the Asia Pacific nations to achieve a sustainable, independent energy future
for aviation, and this is an exciting first step.” 

The MOU enables Australia
and the United States to exchange information on policies, programs, projects,
and research results, and to conduct joint studies in areas such investigation
of new fuel sources and conducting environmental impacts.

Aspects of significance

“From the government perspective, and what we choose as a framework for APEC,”
CAAFI (The Commercial Aviation Alternative Fuels Initiative) Executive Director
Rick Altman said, “this agreement is fairly unique, in that you have the agreement
being developed out of the private sector, and then they have brought this to
the government to recognize and support – as opposed to the government developing
this, and saying “here” to the private sector.”

Three aspects of the agreement should draw special attention from followers of
bioenergy’s story arc.

1. Unlike other government to government agreements that emerge from time to
time, this agreement sprung out of the private sector, primarily driven by the
CAAFI private-public partnership in the US , and  Austrade and the US Studies Center at the University of Sydney, for Australia.

2. This agreement is “operational” not “aspirational” which makes it unique among
other cross border activities in which the CAAFI coalition has been engaged in
that their are discreet specifics that fill gaps in the overall global aviation
biofuels efforts to which we can both make contributions.

3. This MOU can realistically form a template for efforts for in the Asia Pacific
region as a whole, and other regions.

The origins of the agreement

Dr. Susan Pond of the US Studies Center recalls: “Rich Altman and I met in October
last year through Austrade in DC, and at that time we hatched the idea of a forum
at the Avalon Air Show, where we held seminars every day (before the jets drowned
us out). In Australia, we saw a real appetite for connection internationally and
particularly with US for aviation, and in fact a group had formed earlier under
SAFUG (Sustainable Aviation Fuel Users Group) to start working on roadmap, with
Boeing, Qantas, Virgin, GE and CSIRO involved, and in particular getting catalysis
and knowledge from boeing.

“After Avalon, we had the idea of an MOU or an agreement between the US and Australia,
which I presented to the Australian government in Canberra including people at
the Ministry of Resources Energy & Tourism and Ministry of Transport. CAAFI,
myself, FAA and Austrade had a meeting towards a more formal agreement at the
Advanced Biofuels Leadership Conference in DC earlier this year, and as another
part of the process we went to a prep meeting for APEC and put it on the APEC
agreement agenda, and it was signed of the margins of the APEC meeting.”

CAAFI’s Rich Altman added: “There were discussions that predated this process,
such as discussions between the Volpe Center and CSIRO. But we quickly identified
areas to work together – road-mapping, scenario planning, and matching up feedstock
with fuel suppliers. At the next CAAFI meeting in November we will put even more
meat on the work plan.”

The key elements

Key elements in work plan for now include: scenario analysis, feedstock readiness,
sustainability, data sharing, fuels certification, plus development on a variety
of alternative fuel pathways, including fuels out of synthetic biology processing,
alcohol to jet fuels, and fuels made from pyrolytic processes.

One of the areas of greatest concern and focus is feedstock readiness – there
being around the world a sense that the aviation community has been able to advance
on fuels testing and certification fare faster than the feedstock community has
been able to ramp op on scale.

Feedstocks of interest

In the agreement, there is a focus on US technologies and Australian feedstocks.
Besides the well-known focus on development of algal fuels in Australia, “the
main feedstocks of interest are sugar,” observed Dr. Pond, “there’s a lot of bagasse
that can be diverted. Also, oilseed crops, some of which are already grown, like
mustard seed – as a break crop for soil as well as the oil benefit. Lignocellulosic
crops are not used on an aggregated basis at this time, except for power. But
that’s where CSIRO is especially good – they have done the mapping and aggregation
to prepare for that sector.”

The Global Template

There’s an interest in duplicating this type of agreement,” said CAAFI’s Altman.
“It was brought up in Sept meeting, and we could be working as early as March
on something. As far as where this model would work, follow the feedstocks. There
are feedstock rich regions throughout Southeast Asia  that fits the bill. Plus
there are countries with a strong aviation industry component, for example, there
may be interest in Japan, given the fact that the aircraft and engine partnerships
are already in place there. Plus there are countries like Singapore, where you
have the refining capacity. In that case, there’s been activity between FAA and
Singapore, which has a strong aviation community and is surrounded by the feedstocks
in the neighboring countries.”

The governmental role

“The government will have a very important educative role,” remarked Dr. Pond.
“Australia is just now finalizing its alternative fuels strategy, but in general
we know that agricultural subsidies, for example, are much greater in the US than
in Australia and the industry will need to be pulled rather than pushed. So, education
of the constituencies, such as farmers, will not work the same.”

Policy Stability

“Market forces are driving this sector,” said Altman, “and there are strong forces
that will sustain this. For example, as prominent as aviation has become within
the biofuels community, aviation consumes twice as much fuel relative to road
transport in Australia than here. Plus, the depletion of oil refining capacity
is much greater in Australia than here. And, its much easier to align the players
– for example, it is very difficult to align commercial and military people in
the EU, for historical reasons, but it is not an issue in Australia.

“I don’t see that the MOU would be cancelled” added Dr. Pond, “if there was a
change in government. The carbon tax which is coming in will be so difficult to
unwind if it is finally passed towards the end of the year, and the private aviation
sector isn’t going to change. So the meta-policy environment is going to have
a great deal driving it.”

“CAAFI started under the Bush Administration,” noted Altman, “and then continued
and accelerated under the Obama administration. Usually, a new government comes
in and looks for good ideas and seeks to embrace them. And we see that at the
state level, too. Those states that are changing policy, are still looking to
embrace initiatives like this. All governments want to be successful, and I suspect
that applies to governments here or there.”



Read more »

European Commission – Clean Transport Systems initiative – consultation ends 6th October

The EC has a current consultation on future fuels in Europe, including biofuels
in a big way, and including aviation.  It presumes biofuels are a “good thing”
and just asks how much, and with what priority, and on what time scale etc.  It
asks for views on fuel mix, including various forms of alternative fuels, in 2020,
2030 and 2050, and its stated aim is to modernise and decarbonise the transport
sector. A good chance to send in concerns about the rush to biofuels.

The EU is inviting responses to a worrying survey on Clean Transport Systems



The questions tend to assume that biofuels are a good thing.

Deadline for responses 6 October.

The questionnaire itself is at http://ec.europa.eu/yourvoice/ipm/forms/dispatch?form=cts

Most questions are compulsory, and it may be the sort of form on which you have
to tick one of two (unappealing) alternatives before being allowed to continue. 
Each has a space for comments below it.
Most of the questions are copied below:
Should policy actions be taken at the EU level to steer an EU-wide market introduction
of alternative fuels?
In addition to appropriate standards for CO2 emissions from vehicles, do you
consider it important to put in place requirements on energy efficiency addressing
all types of propulsion systems alongside the progressive market penetration of
alternative fuels?
In view of the current availability of fuel options with lower CO2 emissions,
what should now receive priority?
 – Research to improve existing fuel/vehicle technologies  

 – Deployment of new low-CO2 fuel/vehicle technologies

Which approach should the EU take on the promotion of alternative fuels?
 – Technology-oriented: giving preference to certain fuels and vehicle technologies
(based on estimated cost effectiveness, market potential, long-term contribution
to oil substitution and decarbonisation)
 – Performance-oriented: linking support to alternative fuels in a technology-neutral
way to performance criteria, such as energy efficiency, reduction of CO2 and pollutant

Which fuels should be included in a long-term European alternative fuel strategy?
- Electricity

 – Methane 

 – Hydrogen

-  LPG (Liquefied Petroleum Gas) 

 – Biofuels

 – Other

- Synthetic fuels


Different transport modes may require different alternative fuels. Indicate which
alternative fuels will be relevant for which transport modes on the time horizon
   …… and it gives a  grid with all the forms of transport, including air,
and the fuel options above, including biofuels.
and a grid for
Different transport modes may require different alternative fuels. Indicate which
alternative fuels will be relevant for which transport modes on the time horizon
and a  grid for
Different transport modes may require different alternative fuels. Indicate which
alternative fuels will be relevant for which transport modes on the time horizon
Should actions be taken to privilege the use of particular fuels in particular
transport sectors?
Do we need to accompany those actions with a coherent life-cycle approach for
all fuels?
Do you think that biofuels meeting the EU sustainability criteria could provide
the major share of the transport energy supply in the long term?
Do you think that biofuels meeting the EU sustainability criteria could deliver
the required greenhouse gas reduction in the horizon 2050?
Biofuels are considered to be an important part of alternative long term options
for substituting oil as energy source in transport. Which approach(es) should
get priority for further market build-up of biofuels reaching beyond 2020?
- Enabling progressively higher blending of bioethanol and biodiesel with conventional
fossil fuels  

- Faster market deployment of flexible fuel vehicles that can accept a much wider
range of fuel specifications 

- Faster market development of biofuels in transport sectors which are less dependent
on fuel specifications than road transport passenger vehicles 

- Faster market development of fungible (*) biofuels, which can be blended at
any ratio with conventional fossil fuels
[ (*)  fungible means (especially of goods) being of such nature or kind as to
be freely exchangeable or replaceable, in whole or in part, for another of like
nature or kind.]
Should the public sector intervene in accelerating the deployment of advanced
biofuels technologies for the transport sector?
and a few other questions, and
Should there be EU legislation requiring a certain minimum refuelling/recharging
infrastructure for certain alternative fuels/energy carriers?
 ….. for Road, Rail, Water, Air ……….with the various possible alternative
fuels, including biofuels.
Should the market introduction of alternative fuels be supported by privileged
access of alternative fuel vehicles/transport carriers to transport infrastructure?
Additional contributions through position papers are encouraged. They should
be sent to
MOVE-FUELS@ec.europa.eu or uploaded here below.

Read more »

European Commission Caves in to Industry Over Biofuel Rules – Global Forest Coalition Demands Precautionary Approach

In a long-awaited announcement last week, the EC decided to entirely ignore the
indirect climate impacts of agrofuels for up to 7 more years. Instead of using
the precautionary principle, the agofuel industry has been given the benefit of
the doubt. The EU Renewable Energy Directive exempt all agrofuels produced in
installations including palm oil and sugar cane mills operating by the end of
2012 from any ‘penalties’ over their indirect impacts until the end of 2017.

[The aviation industry has sometimes stated that it will only use biofuels that
are not in competition with human food supplies, but that now seems to have been
abandonned, and palm oil or jet fuel derived from alcohol from maize or sugar
is being developed].

Note:  GJEP (Global Justice Ecology Project) is the North American Focal Point
for Global Forest Coalition.

13 September, 2011 (Climate Connections, USA)

In a long-awaited announcement last week[1], the European Commission decided
to entirely ignore the indirect climate impacts of agrofuels for up to seven more
The Global Forest Coalition (GFC), a network of more than 50 NGOs and Indigenous
Peoples Organisations worldwide, says the decision illustrates once more the absurdity
of EU claims regarding “sustainable biofuels”.  GFC continues to call for the
EU and EU member states to abolish biofuel targets and subsidies as the only way
to prevent further disastrous consequences for forests, people and climate.

According to Commission minutes, the EU’s decision to ignore Indirect Land Use
Change for the foreseeable future was due to ‘scientific uncertainties’.

“The EU claims to be committed to the Precautionary Principle, but this decision
yet again flies in the face of precaution,” says Almuth Ernsting from Biofuelwatch,
the European Focal Point of GFC.

“First, they ignored all warnings when pushing through a 10% biofuel target.
Now they are using scientific uncertainties as an excuse for once again caving
in to the agrofuel industry. Under the precautionary principle, uncertainties over extent of harm caused by
agrofuels means that targets and subsidies must be stopped – instead of giving
the agrofuel industry the benefit of doubt.”

A recent study published in Environmental Research Letters concludes that “nearly 60% of Amazonian deforestation occurring between 2003 and 2020 will be
attributable to ILUC [Indirect Land Use Change’ associated with biofuel production”[2]. 

Furthermore, a recent report by a High Level Expert Panel published by the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation, illustrates the key role
that biofuels played in recent food price rises, responsible for a steep increase
in the number of people going hungry worldwide [3].

GFC’s chairperson Fiu Mata’ese Elisara, an Indigenous leader from Samoa states:
“We have long recognized that, so long as demand continues to grow for soya, palm
oil, sugar cane and other biofuel feedstocks, ‘sustainability standards’ will
fail to address the problem. The increasing demand is driven by policies from
Europe and North America that favour targets and subsidies. The result is pushing agricultural frontiers further into forests, grasslands,
peat lands and other natural ecosystems.

It also forms a significant factor in the current food price boom, which has
lead to far more people being hungry and malnourished all over the world. The only way to prevent this destruction is for EU and member states to halt
the targets and subsidies. Instead, they are choosing to turn a blind eye and
ignore these impacts altogether.”

The EU Renewable Energy Directive, which includes a 10% biofuel target for transport,
already ‘exempted’ all agrofuels produced in installations operating by the end
of 2012 from any ‘penalties’ over their indirect impacts until the end of 2017
  This belies the Commissions’ claim that its decision aims to protect existing
investments, rather than supporting future agrofuel production.

The Commission has indicated that it is considering an increase in existing “greenhouse
gas standards” for biofuels as an alternative to addressing indirect land use
change. However, Global Forest Coalition and others have dismissed this approach
because it is based on a false accounting of climate impacts – made worse by the
Commission’s decision to continue ignoring the indirect impacts, which account
for the bulk of greenhouse gas emissions from biofuels.


Simone Lovera, Global Forest Coalition: +595-21-663654, +595985593591

Almuth Ernsting, Biofuelwatch: +44-1224-324797


[1] The Commission’s decision, with excerpts from minutes, was reported by Reuters
on 8th September:

[2] Statistical confirmation of indirect land use change in the Brazilian Amazon,
Eugenio Y. Arima, Environmental Research Letters 6 (2011), 024010,

[3] Price volatility and food security, a report by the High Level Panel of Experts
on Food Security and Nutrition, July 2011,

[4] Article 19(6) of the Renewable Energy Directive – Note that subsequent Guidance
published by the Commission states that the term ‘installation’ applies not only
to agrofuel refineries but even to palm oil, sugar cane or soya mills, which means
that the ‘exemption’ would already have applied to agrofuels from most new refineries.



Read more »

‘Serious’ Error Found in Carbon Savings for Biofuels

The EU is overestimating the reductions in CO2 emissions from use of biofuels
as a result of a “serious accounting error,” according to a draft opinion by an
influential committee of 19 scientists and academics. They write that any CO2
reduction should be measured by how much additional CO2 such crops absorb beyond
what would have been absorbed anyway by existing fields, forests and grasslands.
Instead, the EU has been “double counting” some of the savings.

14.9.2011 (New York Times)

The EU Scientific Committee opinion – well worth a read – is at http://www.eea.europa.eu/about-us/governance/scientific-committee/sc-opinions/opinions-on-scientific-issues/sc-opinion-on-greenhouse-gas
The European Union is overestimating the reductions in greenhouse gas emissions
achieved through reliance on biofuels as a result of a “serious accounting error,”
according to a draft opinion by an influential committee of 19 scientists and

The European Environment Agency Scientific Committee writes that the role of energy from crops like biofuels in curbing warming gases
should be measured by how much additional carbon dioxide such crops absorb beyond
what would have been absorbed anyway by existing fields, forests and grasslands.

Instead, the European Union has been “double counting” some of the savings, according
to the draft opinion, which was prepared by the committee in May and viewed this
week by The International Herald Tribune and The New York Times.

The committee said that the error had crept into European Union regulations because
of a “misapplication of the original guidance” under the
United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.


“The potential consequences of this bioenergy accounting error are immense since
it assumes that all burning of biomass does not add carbon to the air,” the committee

European Union laws “need to be reviewed to encourage bioenergy use only from
additional biomass that reduces greenhouse gas emissions,” the committee wrote.
Estimates of emissions saved by using crops for energy should instead focus on
biomass that would “maintain or build carbon stocks in plants and soils,” it adds.

The draft opinion is not binding; some findings could change before the committee
issues a final version, probably in coming weeks. Even so, the implications could
be significant if European Union authorities come under pressure to adjust their
rules on biofuels.

Farmers and fuel companies may no longer be able to use as wide a variety of
crops to meet targets that were agreed upon three years ago to generate 10 percent
of transportation fuel from renewable sources by 2020.

The committee suggested that bodies like the International Energy Agency and the United Nations could be forced to lower their forecasts for the amount
of energy from plants and crops that could be generated in the future.

The opinion comes at an awkward time for the European Commission, the European
Union’s executive body.

The commission already is agonizing over how much to tighten the rules on biofuels
to curb a phenomenon called indirect land use change, in which areas containing
high stores of carbon dioxide, like grasslands, peat lands or forests, are stripped
to produce food crops.

The committee attributed some of its findings to work by Tim Searchinger, a research scholar and lecturer at Princeton who has written extensively about
accounting for emissions from biofuels.

In one example attributed to research by Mr. Searchinger, the committee wrote:

Clearing or cutting forests for bioenergy crops releases large stores of carbon
into the atmosphere and may reduce ongoing carbon sequestration if the forest
was otherwise still growing. Bioenergy crops will absorb carbon that offsets the
emissions from their combustion, but it may take decades for this carbon absorption
(which offsets emissions) to catch up to the lost carbon storage and forgone carbon
sequestration of the forest.”

The committee’s opinion backs up earlier criticism by environmental groups including
Birdlife International and the European Environmental Bureau, which likened the carbon accounting error by European Union officials to a
“subprime carbon mortgage that it may never be able to pay back.” (see article below)

The committee is not ruling out the use of biofuels, however, and in other examples
it identified optimal sites for planting bioenergy crops, including former tropical
forests now overrun by grasses that frequently catch on fire.



and also

14.9.2011 (Reuters)

Bioenergy targets based on flawed science: report

Existing targets for biofuels and other forms of bioenergy are based on flawed
carbon accounting and should be revised downwards, a draft report by a panel of
19 top European scientists showed. 

“It is widely assumed that bioenergy is inherently carbon-neutral. However, this
assumption is flawed,” said the Scientific Committee of the European Environment
Agency, the European Union’s environment watchdog.


“The potential consequences of this bioenergy accounting error are immense,”
said the draft opinion seen by Reuters.


The report is intended to guide EU policymaking on bioenergy, but its findings
apply to policies implemented by other governments around the world, the scientists


If the findings are confirmed and heeded by policymakers, it would undermine
the case in favor of using biofuels and could lead to a wholesale U-turn in existing
bioenergy policy.


The 19-member panel has no direct say on EU energy policy, but its opinion is
well respected, and the draft report comes during a tense EU debate over calculating
the indirect climate impact biofuels create by diverting crops into fuel tanks.


The European Commission has agreed to delay by up to seven years rules that would
penalize individual biofuels for their indirect emissions, saying the scientific
uncertainty surrounding the issue is too great.


Ten agencies, including the World Bank and World Food Programme, recently called
on governments to scrap policies to support biofuels, because they force up food


Biofuels accounted for about 20 percent of sugar cane in 2007-2009 and 9 percent
of oilseeds and coarse grains, according to that study.


But the report by the EEA’s scientific committee goes one step further, saying
that policymakers made a basic mathematical error at the start and credited both
liquid and solid fuels with more carbon savings than they merit.


The basic assumption with bioenergy — whether bioethanol used in cars or wood
chips burned in power stations — is that it emits only as much carbon when burned
as the plants absorbed when growing.


If you use them as a fuel, their net impact on the carbon balance of the climate
is supposed to be zero, except for emissions from farming and processing the energy




But the scientific committee said that the basic theory omitted to make a comparison
with the business-as-usual scenario of plant growth.


“Plants do absorb carbon, but this thinking makes a ‘baseline’ error because
it fails to recognize that if bioenergy were not produced, land would typically
grow plants anyway, and those plants would absorb carbon,”
it said.


The only true carbon savings are those made above and beyond the natural level
of carbon sequestration in nature or crop cultivation. In other words, what matters
is additional plant growth.


The panel called on the EU to revise its bioenergy laws to make intelligent use
of the best-performing biofuels.


“Legislation that encourages substitution of fossil fuels by bioenergy, irrespective
of the biomass source, may even cause an increase in carbon emissions, accelerating
global warming,” it said.


The EU has a target to increase the share of renewables in final energy use to
20 percent by 2020, and current forecasts suggest that energy from trees and other
vegetation will account for 60 percent of all renewable energy by that date.


A separate EU target seeks to raise the use of biofuels in road transport to
about 10 percent by the end of this decade.


The European Environmental Bureau (EEB), a federation of more than 140 environment
groups, said the opinion confirmed the findings of its 2010 report, “Bioenergy:
a Carbon Accounting Time Bomb”.


“The industry keeps telling us that the science on biofuels is too uncertain
to change the policy, but both these reports show that the only thing that is
uncertain is whether EU biofuels policy delivers any carbon savings at all,” said
EEB policy director Pieter Depous.


Members of the scientific committee contacted by Reuters declined to comment
on the contents of the report, which is due to be formally adopted on October
5, but stressed that it was a draft and could still change.


One expert with knowledge of its contents, speaking on condition of anonymity,
said initial estimates of the climate benefits of bioenergy were far too optimistic.


“The problem was that when these targets were created, people did not go into
these details. It’s later on that all these details came in,” he said.


“I think there’s still a role for bioenergy, but maybe a little bit less positive
than it is now.”


(Reporting by Charlie Dunmore, editing by Rex Merrifield and Jane Baird)
see also

see the European Commission response

14.9.2011 (New York Times_

European Commission Disputes Opinion on Biofuels Emissions

The European Commission acknowledged on Wednesday that reductions in greenhouse
gas emissions linked to the use of some forms of bioenergy — burning wood for
electricity, for example — could be overestimated because of a “serious accounting

But the commission rejected the conclusions of a draft opinion by the European Environment Agency Scientific Committee that said that similar problems afflict the calculation of emissions from biofuels
for transportation.

The draft opinion, described here in an earlier post, could have wide repercussions. It suggests that a far narrower variety of crops
for biofuels and bioenergy should be grown and that organizations like the International
Energy Agency and the United Nations probably need to lower their emissions forecasts
related to the use of biofuels and bioenergy.


The committee, made up of 19 scientists and academics, wrote in May that the
effectiveness of energies produced from crops used for biofuels and bioenergy
in curbing greenhouse gas emissions should be measured by how much additional
carbon dioxide such crops absorb, beyond what would have been absorbed anyway
by pre-existing fields, forests and grasslands.

The committee is expected to agree on a final draft of their opinion in coming

The matter is particularly sensitive in Europe, where governments agreed three
years ago to generate 10 percent of fuels for transportation from renewable sources
including biofuels.

The committee based some of its draft opinion, viewed this week by The International
Herald Tribune and The New York Times, on work by
Tim Searchinger, a research scholar and lecturer at Princeton who has written extensively about
accounting for emissions from biofuels.

Marlene Holzner, a spokeswoman for the European Commission, said that some of
Mr. Searchinger’s findings had been “rebutted by other institutions in the past”
and that his opinion “seems not to be an actual good contribution” to calculating
whether biofuels for transportation “are good in terms of CO2 emissions or not.”

But on bioenergy, “his thoughts are partly correct,” Ms. Holzner said. “We are
looking into that.” She declined to say how long that assessment would take.

Ms. Holzner said that the main problem with Mr. Searchinger’s work on biofuels
for transportation was that he had failed to make a proper comparison with the
emissions produced by gasoline and diesel burned in cars.

That argument was reinforced this week by industry representatives like Lars
Hansen, the president for Europe at
Novozymes, a Danish biotechnology company that produces enzymes for biofuels.

‘’The real issue is whether biofuels reduce greenhouse gas emissions compared
to continued petroleum use, assuming that land use issues are accounted for,’’
Mr. Hansen said. ‘‘There is clear and substantial evidence that they do.”




From BirdLife (date not known)


Bioenergy – a carbon accounting time bomb


Burung Indonesia Eka Tresnawan
The carbon debt created when woody biomass is burned takes centuries to pay off.

Zoom In 

Two new independent scientific studies commissioned by BirdLife International,
the European Environmental Bureau and Transport & Environment cast further
doubt on the EU’s policy of promoting biomass as fuel for heat and power generation,
and biofuels for transport.

The first study, carried out by Joanneum Research, identifies a major flaw in
the way carbon savings from forest-derived biomass are calculated in EU law as
well as under UNFCCC and Kyoto Protocol mechanisms. It concludes that harvesting
trees for energy creates a ‘carbon debt’: the carbon contained in the trees is
emitted upfront while trees grow back over many years.  The true climate impact
of so-called woody biomass in the short to medium term can, as a result, be worse
than the fossil fuels it is designed to replace.

“The EU is taking out a sub-prime carbon mortgage that it may never be able to
pay back. Biomass policy needs to be fixed before this regulatory failure leads
to an ecological crisis that no bail out will ever fix”,
commented Ariel Brunner, Head of EU Policy at BirdLife International. 

The second study, by CE Delft, examines the full climate impact of the main biofuels
used in Europe. In particular it looked at the impact of the expansion of agricultural
land into environmentally sensitive areas when food production is displaced by
fuel crops, a process known as indirect land use change (ILUC). The report, based
on analysis of several EU Commission-sponsored research projects and other international
model studies, found that most current biofuels are as bad as fossil fuels for
the climate once ILUC is taken into consideration.
The study proposes concrete ways of correcting current greenhouse gas balance
calculations to fully account for indirect land use change related emissions.

“As long as the EU refuses to take the full climate impacts of biofuels into
account, its climate strategy for transport is doomed to failure.” said Nuša Urbancic,
Policy Officer at Transport & Environment, the sustainable transport campaigners. 

“If left unchanged, biomass for energy policy will soon be in the same dire and
confused state as biofuel policy is today”, added Pieter de Pous, Senior Policy
Officer at the European Environmental Bureau. “This can be avoided if the Commission
and industry are ready to face up to these facts and develop the necessary measures
that will ensure bioenergy policy will actually make a positive contribution to
fighting climate change”.

Together, current EU policy on biomass and biofuels risks severe environmental
impacts across the globe, and a carbon debt that could take centuries to pay off.

The three groups are calling on the EU to come forward with mandatory sustainability
criteria for biomass and to incorporate indirect land use change calculations
into the existing sustainability criteria for biofuels and bioenergy.

Download the report here.

Download the Joanneum Research study here.

Bergsma G. C., Croezen H. J., Otten M. B. J. & van Valkengoed M.P.J., Biofuels:
indirect land use change and climate impact, Delft, CE Delft, June 2010.

Download the CE Delft study here.

Zanchi G, Pena N., Bird N., The upfront carbon debt of bioenergy, Graz, Joanneum
Research, June 2010.’



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