US military using 119 million barrels oil per year, now want 50% biofuel by 2020

The Defense Department Is a Significant Driver of New Technology

June 3, 2011   (Biofuels Digest)
by Jim Lane |


By Brent Erickson, Digest columnist,

Executive VP, Industrial Environmental Section, BIO
[BIO   is the Biotechnical Industry Organisation, in the USA]
(Bias warning – article written by the biotechnology industry)
To carry out military and humanitarian missions around the world, U.S. forces
require reliable fuel supplies and secure supply lines. The military is as much
at the mercy of high oil and gasoline prices as the average consumer. And, oil
often comes from regions of the world that are not U.S. military allies. Energy
independence is therefore a national security issue.

U.S. troops, their trucks, ships and airplanes use close to 2 percent of the
nation’s energy on an annual basis, making the military a small but significant
consumer of fuel. In 2008, the U.S. Department of Defense used about 119 million
barrels of oil for fuel.

To turn this around, the DOD has set goals to reduce its energy demand and increase
its use of renewable energy – acquiring 50 percent of supplies from renewable
sources that meet U.S. greenhouse gas emission initiatives by 2020.   [All probably more for energy security reasons than any desire to reduce climate
According to the DOD’s Quadrennial Defense Review in 2010, it views fuel efficiency
and access to fuel supplies in friendly countries around the world as important
“force multipliers.” They increase the military’s ability to operate where needed
while limiting the number of combat forces needed to protect supply lines..

Navy Director for Operational Energy Chris Tindal reviewed progress on the Navy’s
plans to deploy a Great Green Fleet powered by renewable and low-carbon energy
by 2016 in a speech this month at BIO’s World Congress on Industrial Biotechnology
in Toronto. According to Tindal, “We want to be able to pull into different ports
around the globe and be able to refuel on biofuels.” In other words, the Navy
does not want to sail its Great Green Fleet with a long convoy of tankers providing
the fuel, as this would recreate the need to protect a long supply line – a disadvantage
similar to the current reliance on oil.

Advanced biofuels represent the best option for meeting military needs. Tactical
biorefineries can be established in strategic locations, such as Hawaii or other
friendly countries, making use of local feedstocks to produce sustainable biofuels
for the military.

The Navy and Air Force have both worked with biofuel suppliers to conduct tests
and certify that biofuels meet exacting requirements for performance and cost.
For instance, Solazyme – a California algae oil producer –delivered to the Navy
20,000 gallons of jet and diesel from algae, the largest amount of advanced biofuel
ever produced. And Sustainable Oils – a renewable fuel producer in Montana – supplied
camelina-based bio-jet fuel for a 2010 test flight at supersonic speeds of the
U.S. Navy’s F/A-18 “Green Hornet” aircraft.

There is a potential to benefit civilian aviation as well. As Tindal noted in
his speech, the military can help biotech and algae biofuel companies scale up
their technologies and drive prices down by acting as an early adopter. The U.S.
military exercises sufficient purchasing power to drive development of new fuels
in sufficient quantities at the right price. The private commercial airline industry and the military collectively use 1.5
million barrels of jet fuel per day.

There are legislative efforts that would help the military become the technology
leader in scaling up commercial production of sustainable biofuels, such as algae.
BIO supports legislation allowing the Department of Defense to engage in long-term
contracts for purchasing biofuels. These contracts would provide significant market
stability for small companies trying to commercialize new technologies and would
help them to attract private investment to build the small biorefineries in strategic
locations around the world that the military needs.

Read more »

UK scientists launch scathing criticism of EU biofuel targets (road traffic)

(Road Traffic – but the key criticisms of these biofuels transfer to the biofuels
that the aviation industry intends to use)
2nd June, 2011 (Ecologist)

Claims that biofuels have lower greenhouse gas emissions than fossil fuels are
‘complete nonsense’ and EU-wide targets to increase their use should be scrapped
says letter to transport minister

A global ‘land grab’ and increased loss of forests and other natural ecosystems
is being driven by European targets for more transport fuel to come from biofuels,
say a group of prominent UK scientists.

The EU has a target for 10 per cent of total transport fuel to be derived from
renewable sources by 2020. Observers estimate the vast majority of these targets
will be met by biofuels, mainly sourced from food crops, such as oil seeds, palm
oil, sugar cane, beet and wheat.

The UK is currently aiming to reach 5 per cent of fuel from renewable sources
by 2013 and admits that 90 per cent or more of the increase to 10 per cent by
2020 will be met by crop-based biofuels.

The biofuels target was originally designed to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions
but in a letter sent to the transport minister Philip Hammond, and seen by the
Ecologist, 19 prominent scientists from across the UK say crop-based biofuels will actually ‘substantially increase

According to the scientists, in a rush to promote biofues both the UK and EU
had failed to take account of two factors – the high-use of nitrogen fertilisers
and land-use change brought about by the increasing demand for land to grow biofuel
crops instead of food.

‘The additional demand for grains, oilseeds and sugars brought about by increased
biofuel production will indirectly bring about the conversion of land currently
under forest or other natural ecosystem into agricultural land, with the concomitant
release into the atmosphere of carbon stored in trees and soil,’ says the letter.

Professor Keith Smith, of University of Edinburgh, one of the letter’s co-authors, says the release of carbon dioxide would be
‘huge’ compared to the savings from the crops taking in CO2 from the atmosphere
to grow. He says another factor, emissions related to fertiliser-use, was also
being ignored.

‘There has been a naivety that biofuels are carbon neutral but when we count
the fossil fuel energy going into biofuels from fertiliser use and then also the
nitrous oxide emissions from using nitrogen fertilisers, the emissions are even
higher,’ says Professor Smith.

Both the UK and EU have been under heavy pressure from environmentalists ever
since they announced the targets for biofuels. In April a high-profile report from the Nuffield Council on Bioethics called the targets ‘unethical’ because
they contributed to higher greenhouse gas emissions, food price rises and deforestation.

A UK consultation on how it will meet its renewable fuel targets is due to close today. In their
open letter the scientists urge the UK to ‘provide leadership’ by only accepting
biofuels that are proven to reduce emissions and do not contribute to food insecurity
or conflicts over land.

Action Aid, which claims the biofuels targets will lead to massive surge in hunger in less industrialised countries, has urged the UK to look at obtaining biofuels
from real waste rather than crops and promoting electric cars as alternatives
to meeting the EU renewable transport targets.

Read more »

World Economic Forum report identifies biofuels as the ‘game changer’ to achieve aviation emission targets

23.5.2011 (GreenAir online)
An aviation sustainability report from the World Economic Forum finds that achieving the industry’s target of halving its carbon emissions by
2050 will be a significant challenge given an 85% CO2 emissions reduction gap.
This is despite a significant and continuous $6 trillion investment by airlines
in newer and more fuel-efficient aircraft expected during the timeframe. The report
identifies four key levers to reduce aviation carbon emissions:
- improving aviation infrastructure,
- increasing aircraft R&D,
- accelerating scale-up of aviation biofuels and
- implementing market-based measures.
It says biofuels could help bypass long aircraft lifetimes that limit the CO2
efficiency improvement potential of other technological innovations but 13.6 million
barrels of sustainable second generation biofuels with significantly lower lifecycle
CO2 emissions would be required daily by 2050 to meet the target.

The report says it is unlikely that governments will be able to provide all the
necessary funds for the implementation of the necessary technological and infrastructure
improvements and it will require the involvement of capital markets, private equity
and, for developing countries, the multilateral development banks to fill in the
financial gaps.

According to analysis by World Economic Forum and its partner on the report,
Booz & Company, demand for passenger and cargo is projected to grow by 4.5%
per year, from 540 billion revenue tonne kilometres in 2010 to 3,000 billion in
Carbon emissions are forecast to increase at a slower annual average rate of
3% a year, from 630 million tonnes in 2010 to around 2,000 million tonnes in 2050,
assuming industry fleet improvements take place to replace old aircraft and cover
demand growth with newer more fuel and CO2 efficient aircraft.
As such, the gap between the 2 billion tonnes base case and the industry target
of 330 million tonnes in 2050 would equal almost three times today’s total aviation
CO2 emissions.

“Significant leadership opportunities need to be taken by the industry to ensure
it can grow and still reach its CO2 targets,” says the report.

It advises the industry to inform and educate policy-makers on the criticality
and urgency of implementing aviation infrastructure improvements such as the US
NextGen and the Single European Sky air traffic management projects. Industry
should also work with policy-makers to develop financial and legal incentives
to increase investment into incremental R&D for radical new aircraft technologies
and to drive vertical partnerships with stakeholders along the entire biofuel
value chain.

It also calls for industry to actively engage and support governments working
with ICAO in the development of a global sectoral approach on market-based measures
for aviation through partnerships with experts from the carbon finance community,
and ensure that any measures that are developed focus on incentivising the parties
best placed to make the CO2 abatement investment.

Positive fiscal incentives are seen as having the most potential to increase
investment in reducing carbon by the aviation industry. Given that the report
had a considerable input from airline and aviation interests, it unsurprisingly
rejects green taxes and levies that are currently being implemented or discussed
in different countries. It cautions that “taxes usually result in a net outflow
of funds from the industry that inhibits investment in CO2 reduction projects.”

The report argues that only a limited indirect effect on emissions reduction
is likely to occur with such measures through the cost increase of air travel
if carriers pass costs on to customers and the resulting likely slight decrease
in air traffic. “In addition, the potential macroeconomic effect of more expensive
and thus reduced air travel on GDP and economic development must be considered,”
it says, adding that aviation is an important enabler for the trade of goods,
tourism, services and the socioeconomic development of nations.

The daily requirement for 13.6 million barrels of jet biofuel by 2050 to meet
the industry target would represent a shift to 90% sustainable biofuels in 2050,
estimates the report’s researchers
[ 13.6 million barrels per day works out at 4.9 billion barrels per year.  This
is well over 6 times current global biofuels production.  AirportWatch calculation.
Jürgen Ringbeck, Senior VP and aviation expert at Booz & Company, said the
biggest challenge would be in building up the supply of sustainable biofuels and promoting their prioritisation for use in the aviation sector.

“The sector’s move to biofuels requires significant investments to achieve a
quantum leap in technology and increase production,” he said. “The necessary market
dynamics will only develop if governments set the right incentives for the agricultural
sector, energy producers and the airlines to incubate a global aviation biofuel
production system. Due to the early stage of development and high risks involved
with aviation biofuels, a new innovative approach of all involved stakeholders
is required.”

The Geneva-based World Economic Forum said it hopes the report will lead industry
and government stakeholders to engage in a wider discussion among themselves and
with non-governmental communities to “build a practical enabling environment that
should be conducive to catalysing a step change in private sector action to decrease
aviation CO2 emissions, develop and deploy revolutionary existing and new technologies,
and provide sustainable investment choices at scale and speed.”

The report is the outcome of a year-long collaboration among leaders in the aviation,
energy and financial services industries, governments, universities and international


World Economic Forum – ‘Policies and Collaborative Partnership for Sustainable
Aviation’ report (download)

By comparison 
 The global biofuel production is estimated to reach 1,900 Million barrels in
2020, at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 10% over the forecast period
2015 – 2020.   (That’s about half of current Saudi oil production).
In 2015  there may be around 130 billion litres of biofuel produced,3343,en_2649_37401_40054096_1_1_1_1,00.html
(1 barrel of oil is about 159 litres.  Therefore 130 billion litres is around 0.8 billion barrels.  Compare that with the anticipated
demand of 4.9 billion barrels biofuel by 2050)

Read more »

MIT analysis emphasises the large variability in greenhouse gas emissions from jet biofuel production

24.5.2011 (GreenAir online)

One solution to the land-use problem may be to explore crops like salicornia
that don’t require deforestation or fertile soil to grow  


There’s a race afoot to give wings to biofuels in the aviation industry as part
of an effort to combat soaring fuel prices and cut greenhouse gas emissions.
In 2008, Virgin Atlantic became the first commercial airline to fly a plane on
a blend of biofuel and petroleum. Since then, a number of airlines around the
world have flown biofuel test flights, and Lufthansa is racing to be the first
carrier to run daily flights on a biofuel blend.
However, researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) say the
industry may want to cool its jets and make sure it has examined biofuels’ complete
carbon footprint before making an all-out push, reports Jennifer Chu, MIT News
Office. They say that when a biofuel’s origins are factored in – for example,
taking into account whether the fuel is made from palm oil grown in a clear-cut
rainforest – conventional fossil fuels may sometimes be the greener choice.

“What we found was that technologies that look very promising could also result
in high emissions, if done improperly,” says James Hileman, principal research
engineer in the Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics, who has published
the results of a study conducted with MIT graduate students Russell Stratton and
Hsin Min Wong in the online version of the journal Environmental Science and Technology.
“You can’t simply say a biofuel is good or bad – it depends on how it’s produced
and processed, and that’s part of the debate that hasn’t been brought forward.”

Hileman and his team performed a life-cycle analysis of 14 fuel sources, including
conventional petroleum-based jet fuel and ‘drop-in’ biofuels: alternatives that
can directly replace conventional fuels with little or no change to existing infrastructure
or vehicles. In a previous report, ‘Life Cycle Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Alternative
Fuels’ for the Federal Aviation Administration’s Partnership for Air Transportation
Noise and Emissions Reduction (PARTNER), they calculated the emissions throughout
the life cycle of a biofuel, ‘from well to wake’ – from acquiring the biomass
to transporting it to converting it to fuel, as well as its combustion.

“All those processes require energy,” Hileman says, “and that ends up in the
release of carbon dioxide.”

In the current Environmental Science and Technology paper, Hileman considered
the entire biofuel life cycle of diesel engine fuel compared with jet fuel, and
found that changing key parameters can dramatically change the total greenhouse
gas emissions from a given biofuel.

In particular, the team found that emissions varied widely depending on the type
of land used to grow biofuel components such as soy, palm and rapeseed. For example,
Hileman and his team calculated that biofuels derived from palm oil emitted 55
times more carbon dioxide if the palm oil came from a plantation located in a
converted rainforest rather than a previously cleared area. Depending on the type
of land used, biofuels could ultimately emit 10 times more carbon dioxide than
conventional fuel.

“Severe cases of land-use change could make coal-to-liquid fuels look green,”
says Hileman, noting that by conventional standards, “coal-to-liquid is not a
green option.”

Hileman says the airline industry needs to account for such scenarios when thinking
about how to scale up biofuel production. The problem, he says, is not so much
the technology to convert biofuels – companies like Choren and Rentech have successfully
built small-scale biofuel production facilities and are looking to expand in the
near future. Rather, Hileman says the challenge is in allocating large areas of
land to cultivate enough biomass, in a sustainable fashion, to feed the growing
demand for biofuels.

He says one solution to the land-use problem may be to explore crops like algae
and salicornia that don’t require deforestation or fertile soil to grow. Scientists
are exploring these as a fuel source, particularly since they also do not require
fresh water. 

Total emissions from biofuel production may also be mitigated by a biofuel’s
by-products. For example, the process of converting jatropha to biofuel also yields
solid biomass: for every kilogram of jatropha oil produced, 0.8 kilograms of meal,
1.1 kilograms of shells and 1.7 kilograms of husks are created. These co-products
could be used to produce electricity, for animal feed or as fertiliser. Hileman
says that this is a great example of how co-products can have a large impact on
the carbon dioxide emissions of a fuel.

Hileman says his analysis is one lens through which policymakers can view biofuel
production. In making decisions on how to build infrastructure and resources to
support a larger biofuel economy, he says researchers also need to look at the
biofuel life cycle in terms of cost and yield.

“We need to have fuels that can be made at an economical price, and at large
quantity,” Hileman says. “Greenhouse gases are just part of the equation, and
there’s a lot of interesting work going on in this field.” 

The study is the culmination of four years of research by Hileman, Stratton and
Wong. The work was funded by the Federal Aviation Administration and Air Force
Research Labs.


Environmental Science & Technology – Quantifying Variability in Life Cycle
Greenhouse Gas Inventories of Alternative Middle Distillate Transportation Fuels

PARTNER ‘Life Cycle Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Alternative Fuels’ report (5.30MB
More aviation biofuels stories

Read more »

$70 billion investment required to meet aviation biofuel ambitions, although industry denies setting target

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
of feedstocks.”
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.


BioJet International

Abundant Biofuels

Avjet Biotech (Red Wolf Refining)

IATA Aviation Fuel Forum – Singapore (pdf)

ATAG – ‘Powering the Future of Flight’ (1mb PDF)

Paris Air Show

Read more »

Iberia and AENA invest in algae biofuel project in Madrid

3.5.2011 (Flightglobal)

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 »

Aviation industry says: “Campaigners should support aviation industry biofuel trials”

This is a very biased article, surprisingly in the Ecologist, by the aviation


20th April, 2011
by Paul Steele – executive director of the Air Transport Action Group

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
,’ 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, 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
home abroad.
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
oil expansion.
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 stories on biofuels and aviation
More articles from the Ecologist:

Germany joins up with Lufthansa to sponsor biofuel six times worse than fossil

Campaigners are outraged over airline Lufthansa and German government funding
for jatropha biofuels trial
Biofuels: jatropha still linked to ‘land grabbing and displacement of farmers’

European investment companies continue to tout the biofuel as a ‘wonder-crop’
despite serious environmental and social impacts – Friends of the Earth report
Jatropha better suited to local communities, not biofuel markets

Study predicts the yields of jatropha will fall in the next decade and that it
is better suited to community-level, rather than industrial-scale, production
for the biofuel market
Airlines admit carbon reductions to come from offsetting

Aviation sector wants to avoid a closed trading scheme and forced carbon emissions

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 »

Germany joins up with Lufthansa to sponsor biofuel 6 times worse than fossil fuels

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
fossil fuels.

‘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,’
says Rice.

German sponsorship

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
see also

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.
  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…


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…

Read more »

Biofuels transport targets are unethical, inquiry finds

In its report ‘Biofuels: ethical issues’, the Nuffield Council recommends that
there should be a set of overarching ethical conditions for all biofuels produced
in and imported into Europe, including: 

  1. Biofuels development should not be at the expense of human rights 

  2. Biofuels should be environmentally sustainable 

  3. Biofuels should contribute to a reduction of greenhouse gas emissions 

  4. Biofuels should adhere to fair trade principles 

  5. Costs and benefits of biofuels should be distributed in an equitable way

Independent inquiry concludes that the production of biofuels to meet UK and
European directives violates human rights and damages the environment
13.4.2011 (Guardian)

The legal requirement to put biofuels in petrol and diesel sold in the UK and Europe is unethical because their production violates human rights and damages the
environment, a major new inquiry has concluded.

Biofuels are one of the only renewable alternatives we have for transport fuels, but
current policies and targets that encourage their uptake have backfired badly,”
said Prof Joyce Tait, at Edinburgh University, who chaired the 18-month inquiry
by the independent
Nuffield Council on Bioethics (NCB). “The rapid expansion of biofuels production in the developing world has
led to problems such as deforestation and the displacement of indigenous people.”

The need to meet rising biofuel targets has also led to exploitation of workers,
the loss of wildlife and higher food prices, the inquiry found. Under the European
renewable energy directive, 10% of transport fuel must come from renewable sources such as biofuel by 2020.
Alena Buyx, assistant director at the NCB, said: “If you look at food prices and
they go up and incomes do not, then more people will probably die from hunger,
and biofuels are one contributing factor to those price rises.”
“But doing nothing is also immoral,” said Prof Ottoline Leyserof Cambridge University,
and another member of the NBC working party. There is a clear need to replace
liquid fossil fuels to limit climate change and if a new biofuel technology meets
ethical conditions, there is a duty to develop it, she said.

The main transport biofuels that are currently used – bioethanol, made from maize
and sugar cane, and biodiesel, made from palm and rape seed oil – both come from
food crops and can have substantial ethical problems, the inquiry concluded.

But future generations of biofuel, made from agricultural waste such as straw,
fast-growing perennials such as willow or
miscanthus grass, or even algae grown in tanks, could avoid many of the problems by not competing directly with food. “These are very exciting technologies,” said Leyser. “The potential is huge.”

In the UK, 5% of transport fuel must come from renewable sources by 2013. Today, 3% of the UK’s petrol and diesel comes from biofuel, mostly
produced in Argentina, Brazil and other European countries. But in January, it
was revealed that two-thirds of the
biofuel being used in the UK today failed to meet environmental standards. Government cuts to the budget of the Carbon Trust also saw a flagship algal biofuels project cancelled.

The Department of Transport is currently consulting on changes to the UK’s biofuels regulations. Transport minister Norman Baker said: “It has already been agreed that no biofuel
will count towards European
renewable energy targets unless it meets certain sustainability requirements. But we are pushing
the European commission to go further. Be in no doubt, we consider the sustainability
of biofuels to be paramount.”

An international certification scheme, like the Fairtrade scheme for food, must
be introduced, the NCB inquiry concluded. It would guarantee that the production
of biofuels met the five ethical conditions identified by the NCB: observing human
rights, environmentally sustainable, reduced carbon emissions, fairly traded and
equitably distributed cost and benefits.

Targets for biofuels had driven a rapid expansion, in parts of the world with
lower ethical standards, the researchers said. They cited the destruction of rainforest
in Malaysia to produce palm oil, forcing people off their land and endangering
orangutans, and a 2008 report by Amnesty International which found conditions
slavery for workers in some sugarcane plantations.

“We should slow down [the targets] if it is not possible to meet ethical standards,”
said Buyx. “But we think it is possible to do that [meet such standards] if enough
pressure is applied.” The inquiry found positive examples too, such as small-scale
biofuels initiatives that provide
energy, income and livelihoods in fuel-poor areas, such as in rural Mali.

Existing certification schemes, such as that run by the Roundtable on Sustainable Biofuels were a good start, the researchers said, but remained entirely voluntary. There
was also problem of responsible biofuel producers having to conform to many different
standards. At present, said Buyx: “the EU says each member country should make
their own voluntary scheme – that is madness.”

Tait added: “An international certification scheme will not add to red tape,
it will simplify it with one overarching standard.”
The report 9226 pages) is at
In comments below the article:

Jayb suggests that biofuels are too precious to waste on cars and that they should
be reserved for aviation.

I can think of few things more obscene than squirting food out of the back of
a jet carrying passengers on their holidays.

JSByng, the alternative is for people to continue to fly on holiday but burning
fossil fuels. Any gains in efficiency from aviation are going to be very modest
without biofuels.
You’ll note I pointed out that any biofuels produced should be the most sustainable.
Essentially that rules out veg oil-based aviation fuel and just leaves Fischer
Tropsch fuels which are produced from woody energy crops or waste biomass and
don’t compete directly for food.
It’s not ideal but we’re stuck with it. Naturally it’s much better to reduce
demand for aviation, and that will happen, but for the demand that will inevitably
remain let’s do it as sustainably as possible.

Read more »

Biofuel “could be an alternative to fossil-based jet fuel” – Romanian camelina

24.3.2011 (Engineer)


The Romanian-based project, which is being overseen by a non-governmental organisation
(NGO), aims to provide a biofuel made from the camelina plant as a substitute
to fossil-based jet fuel.

Honeywell’s UOP is applying its aviation biofuel refining technology, while CCE
is contributing its knowledge on camelina agronomy, including technologies on
camelina growth, agricultural monitoring networks and plant science. Airbus is
providing technical and project management expertise and is sponsoring sustainability
assessment and lifecycle analysis studies.

Camelina was chosen because of its energy potential, its rotational crop qualities,
its greenhouse-gas reduction potential and its low water requirements. Camelina
is also indigenous to Romania, and can be readily farmed and harvested by family
farmers. It has a high-quality animal feed by-product.

Airbus will support the fuel-approval processes, and assess the effect on aircraft
systems and engines. The consortium will work together with the Bucharest University
of Agronomical Sciences and Veterinary Medicine’s Centre of Biotechnology (BIOTEHGEN)
regarding the camelina plantations, harvesting and oil production.

In the US, biofuel is also showing promise for use in military aircraft. This
month, an F-22 Raptor was successfully flown at supersonic speed a 50/50 fuel
blend of conventional petroleum-based JP-8 and a biofuel that was also derived
from camelina.

The F-22 Raptor performed several manoeuvres, including a supercruise at 40,000ft,
reaching speeds of 1.5 Mach. Supercruise is supersonic flight without using the
engine’s afterburner.

Camelina-derived synthetic fuel falls into a class of hydroprocessed blended
biofuels known as hydrotreated renewable jet fuels, or HRJs. The HRJ fuel can
be derived from a variety of plant oil and animal fat feedstocks.

In February, US Air Force officials certified the entire C-17 Globemaster III
fleet for unrestricted flight operations using the HRJ biofuel blend.

link to article


more news and stories on aviation biofuels at Biofuels News

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