GreenAir online reports at length on proceedings of the World Biofuels Markets 2012 conference that took place in March in Rotterdam. Delegates agreed the price of biofuels was still too high to make them commercially viable, and finding fuels that genuinely avoid ILUC (indirect land use change) are not available in large amounts. The airlines and companies want credits for these fuels, and incentives to increase production. Some airlines are prepared to pool together to buy jointly, in order to give producing companies the scale, and the future certainty, they need. For example, there is a 14-airline agreement with AltAir for up to 75 million gallons per year of camelina-derived fuel and a 10-airline letter of intent with Solena for 14 million gallons per year from 2015. And United has executed a LOI to pursue the purchase of 20 million gallons of fuel from Solazyme
The three main obstacles facing the introduction of sustainable aviation biofuels: price, price and price
2 Apr 2012 (GreenAir online)
According to Finnair’s VP Sustainable Development, Kati Ihamäki, biofuels are the fastest route to meaningful long-term reductions in aviation greenhouse gas emissions but supply chain problems need to be overcome and the major hurdle remained “price, price and price”.
This was a familiar theme at the recent World Biofuels Markets 2012 aviation stream conference in Rotterdam, with commercialisation and production scale-up providing a significant challenge to the development of a sustainable jet biofuels industry. However, there are growing signs that policy-makers at European Commission and US government level are willing to join with industry to find solutions.
Last year, Finnair was among the first to conduct a sustainable fuel commercial flight following ASTM certification but Ihamäki said with jet fuel already making up around 35% of Finnair’s overall costs and low profit margins it was hard to justify the investment in being an early adopter. “The price level will have to come down before it is feasible – you cannot afford to pay three or four times the normal cost for conventional jet fuel,” she said. “However we have to be proactive and show that this is doable so that we can bring other players on board, get the economies of scale in place and help drive down the price.”
Boeing’s Director of Sustainable Aviation Fuels Strategy, Darrin Morgan, said there was a bottle-neck as many airlines wanted the new fuels but came up against suppliers who needed project finance but had to wait until the certification milestone had been passed, which was only nine months ago.
He said there were still only a limited number of suppliers out there and the high cost of the available fuels was down to the expensive cost of sending feedstocks to facilities for conversion to jet fuel.
“There is no rocket science involved in making the fuel, the problem right now is there aren’t any full-scale production facilities,” he said.
“You hear of numbers like $20 per gallon and $5-6 per litre – we know where those costs are coming from. It’s not the fundamental cost of making jet fuel, it’s the fact that you’re having to borrow a facility and pay a lot of money for a very small run.”
However, Morgan sees a ray of sunshine for US airlines looking to use advanced renewable fuels. This is a potential outcome of recent preliminary ruling by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that allows for certain feedstock pathways to qualify for so-called RFS2 RIN credits. Morgan sees these credits worth up to $2 per gallon.
“There’s work still to be done on the programme but if it comes to pass, it will have a huge impact – it could change everything,” he believes.
One US airline that is certainly looking for alternative sources of jet fuel is United, which last year used in the region of 4 billion gallons of jet fuel at a cost of around $13 billion.
“Given the price volatility, anything we can do to wean ourselves off crude oil onto other feedstocks with more cost stability gives us the ability to run our business a whole lot better,” said Robert Sturtz, United’s Managing Director of Strategic Sourcing – Fuel and also Chairman of the A4A Energy Council.
“We are very concerned about the sustainability issues but we need alternatives. They must have a carbon footprint better than conventional fuels we use today but we are going to need alternative fuel supplies in the very near future. We will need a whole range of solutions.”
To this end, United and other US airlines have collectively negotiated a number of offtake agreements with potential jet biofuel suppliers. Examples include a 14-airline agreement with AltAir for up to 75 million gallons per year of camelina-derived fuel and a 10-airline letter of intent (LOI) with Solena for 14 million gallons per year from 2015.
United itself has executed a LOI to pursue the purchase of 20 million gallons of fuel from Solazyme and has signed an MoU with Gevo for future supplies of the company’s as yet uncertified isobutanol-derived jet fuel for United’s Chicago base. Sturtz said the airline was in discussions with a number of other potential suppliers.
“What we are doing is to help these biofuel companies commercialise their technology,” he said, referring to the collective agreements. “The prices may be slightly higher than for conventional fuels but they are being shared by the wider airline industry so that no single airline is put at a competitive disadvantage.”
With cash-strapped airlines looking to drive down the price of these new fuels from a fledgling industry, why should the aviation sector be regarded as an attractive market?
“Aviation is a ready-made market for biofuels,” said Sturtz. “90% of fuel supplied to airports in the US is transported by a major pipeline system. The top 35 airlines make up 85% of the total US jet fuel market, with only four or five major carriers accounting for 75%. It’s an easy market to address.”
British Airways’ Head of Environment, Jonathon Counsell, pointed out that supplying just 100 airports worldwide with alternative fuels would deliver around 80% of global airline demand.
Counsell sees other unique selling points for aviation as a long-term customer for sustainable biofuels, not least the lack of alternative energy sources that are available to the ground transport sector. “We’ll be using liquid energy for the next 50 years.”
He said governments that are serious in looking to decarbonise industry have started to recognise that they will have to provide policy instruments to provide the right incentives for those sectors with no alternatives. Counsell illustrated the example of the Flightpath 2020 joint initiative launched by the European Commission’s energy directorate that had set out a roadmap for the industry to be using 2 million tonnes of drop-in sustainable jet biofuel by 2020.
He said governments needed to address the uneven playing field in which there were biofuel incentives for the ground transportation sector that were not available to aviation. “We don’t want subsidies, we don’t want loans – we just want a level playing field with biodiesel and eligibility for the same credits.”
Given the life of a typical aircraft was anything between 15 and 25 years, Counsell said fuel and emissions reductions from advances in new aircraft and engine technology took a long time to feed through. “If you have a low-carbon fuel, you can use it tomorrow,” he said.
“That lead-time advantage is one of the reasons why so many of us are excited about the immediate impact biofuels can have.”
Counsell reported construction of the $350 million Solena municipal solid waste to jet biofuel plant in east London will start next year, with fuel production likely to start in 2015. As well as helping with the planning process, BA has signed a letter of intent to purchase all the biofuel, which will fulfil around 2% of the airline’s requirements and is expected to reduce annual carbon emissions by around 145,000 tonnes.
A downside was the high capital cost of the facility but, he said, “the economics are beautiful once you’ve built it.”
The business case was driven by a UK landfill tax and, to a lesser extent, the EU Emissions Trading Scheme, he explained, and the creation of 1,200 jobs was also an important local consideration, particularly at this time.
He said a major attraction of the process was that there were no indirect land use change (ILUC) issues that would bring the airline into conflict with a strong and effective NGO community, “and we didn’t want to spend most of the time defending it.”
Mark Watson, Head of Environmental Affairs at Cathay Pacific, said the carrier had appointed at the beginning of the year a biofuels manager “to deal with this hugely complicated issue and massive challenge we now face in getting these fuels into our aircraft.”
Watson said there was considerable concern within the industry on what he described as “true” sustainability issues, such ILUC. “We must be cognisant of the challenges made by NGOs and anything we do in terms of large-scale investment must not have a negative impact on livelihoods.
“My phone has been ringing off the hook with calls from biofuel providers – there’s plenty of opportunity out there – but trying to find something that ticks all the boxes is proving extremely difficult.”
Policies need to be introduced to help overcome the many hurdles in the biofuels supply chain, said Thijs Kommen, KLM’s Head of Tactical Planning. “If these hurdles are taken away, the business case will become more sound than it is today. The major challenge is the price – it’s way too high. We need innovators with new technology and feedstocks to develop the market, but sustainability is the main precondition.”
Neste Oil used the World Biofuels Markets (WBM) to present findings of the Lufthansa series of flights between Hamburg and Frankfurt that had been recently completed. Kaisa Hietala, VP Market Development, reported that 1,187 flights had taken place overall, using 1,557 tonnes of Neste’s NExBTL renewable aviation fuel blend and had resulted in savings of 1,471 tonnes in CO2 emissions.
She said the aircraft, engines and analysed components involved in the flights had all performed normally and overall fuel consumption was 1% lower due to the higher energy content of the fuel blend. Inspections after the programme had been completed showed the engines’ combustion chamber and turbines in a perfect condition, normal function and tightness of fuel bearing parts and no contamination or corrosion in the fuel tank. She reported there had been no storage issues and the fuel had showed excellent stability.
Hietala said Nestehad started an extensive research programme on future biofuels to identify the most suitable algae species to produce fatty acids and the optimum production conditions, with a view to commercially producing fuels after 2018. In the shorter term, the company is investing in Europe’s first pilot plant based in Finland that will use agriculture or paper industry residues to produce renewable aviation fuel as early as 2015.
“We really need to find the raw materials to boost the development of aviation biofuels,” she said. “We hope algae and microbial oil from residue streams will provide some of the answers in the future.
“There is clearly work to be done around feedstocks, and stakeholders must all work together. Otherwise, I don’t know if this industry will take off.”
Jim Woodger, Sales Manager of Honeywell’s UOP, said there was a strong demand from European airlines for the company’s Green Jet Fuel as a result of the EU Emissions Trading Scheme. He pointed out that the capital costs of producing its jet fuel were around 25% higher than for its renewable diesel product. “A question for aviation is how do we incentivise pre-investment such that we have a production unit that has the flexibility to make jet fuel as well as diesel.”
He said the challenge was to produce so-called HEFA-SPK [Hydroprocessed esters and fatty acids – Synthetic Parafinnic Kerosene] biofuels that were no more expensive than the price of fossil jet fuel plus the cost of carbon.
The HEFA-SPK biofuels themselves are not expensive, he said, it was the feedstocks. The processing costs were the same for both jet kerosene and HEFA fuels but the problem was current feedstock was significantly more to start with compared to a barrel of crude oil.
“If we can get more supplies of other new feedstocks, such as algal oils, camelina and pennycress, along with the other mechanisms to get this market going, then this would help the industry move forward,” he said.
Loan guarantees for producers, such as those to be provided under the $100 million US government programme, were also essential if the jet biofuels industry was to get off its feet, said Alejandro Rios, Director of Fuel Services at Mexico’s ASA. However, he warned that mandates, fiscal incentives, subsidies and a lack of local pipeline and refining infrastructure were causing significant market distortions and problems for developing countries such as Mexico.
“We’re going to struggle to become competitive because of the extra capacity that exists elsewhere, for example in the United States. We don’t have any capacity to transform vegetable oils or other types of feedstock into a renewable jet fuel in Mexico.”
Thomas Rötger of IATA said the different sustainability criteria under the US Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) compared with the EU’s Renewable Energy Directive (RED) was another problem for producers looking to export into different markets.
“For example, if you have certification from the US to qualify under RFS, you cannot easily transform this to also get recognition in the EU under RED and you have to redo the certification,” he explained. “This is a tedious process that creates administrative and cost burdens to the producer.”
For this reason, he said, airlines and IATA itself was calling for a global agreement amongst states in order to either harmonise sustainability standards or at least have a system of mutual recognition.
Claire Curry, an analyst with Bloomberg New Energy Finance, said that in order reach an industry take-up of 6% of sustainable jet biofuel by 2020, representing some 17 billion litres of fuel, as predicted by the International Energy Agency, would require an investment of some $18.6 billion.
According to Curry, some jet biofuel pathways are likely make better economic sense than others. Fuels from non-edible crops such as jatropha and from cellulosic pyrolysis, for example, could become cost-competitive with conventional jet kerosene if grown at commercial scale. Other pathways requiring, for instance, a gasification process are unlikely to produce jet fuels at a competitive price, whereas algal-based fuels may not prove themselves until the mid-2020s to 2030.
Identifying the ‘winners and losers’ in the technology race towards commercialisation and the raising of funds is seen as a major component of the strategy being adopted by the European Commission and industry Flightpath 2020 initiative.
Dr Kyriakos Maniatis from the Commission’s energy directorate told WBM delegates a benchmarking process had been set up that would adopt key performance indicators to provide independent and transparent evaluation of the various value chains in progress, so as to inform stakeholders of their reliability. He said 19 value chains had been submitted to the Commission for evaluation so far and these would be monitored on an annual basis.
“It is clear the biofuel industry is engaged and eager to prove the reliability of their technologies,” he said.
In mid-April, Porter Airlines plans to use one of its Bombardier 70- to 80-seat Q400 turboprop airliners to conduct the first biofuel-powered revenue flight in Canada. It has already made a biofuel test flight. Rather cynically they are timing their flight close to Earth Day “to emphasize the contribution that biofuels are expected to make in helping the aviation industry meet its targeted reduction in emissions,” and there are a lot of worthy-sounding green sentiments expressed about carbon savings …. the usual over-optimistic greenwash stuff. The fuel they will use will be 50% biofuel, and of that 49% camelina and 1% Brassica carinata (a member of the brassica family, similar to rape, and also called Ethiopian mustard). Targeted Growth Canada (TGC) produced the crop of Camelina. The 1% Brassica carinata may be a GM crop, being grown in Canada.
Porter Airlines to Conduct Canada’s First Biofuel-Powered Revenue Flight
· Flight to be scheduled just before Earth Day with a Bombardier Q400 turboprop
· Preparatory test flight successfully flown by Bombardier in February 2012
In mid-April, Porter Airlines plans to use one of its Bombardier Q400 turboprop airliners to conduct the first biofuel-powered revenue flight in Canada. On February 9, 2012, in preparation for Porter’s upcoming flight, a Bombardier Q400 turboprop test aircraft became the first aircraft in Canada to fly on the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) D7566 bio-derived jet fuel, which was recently certified.
“We are timing our biofuel-powered flight close to Earth Day to emphasize the contribution that biofuels are expected to make in helping the aviation industry meet its targeted reduction in emissions,” said Robert Deluce, President and Chief Executive Officer, Porter Airlines. “Q400and Q400 NextGen aircraft are already among the ‘greenest’ aircraft in the world and the use of biofuel will make the aircraft even more environmentally conscious.”
Porter’s biofuel-powered revenue flight will utilize a 50/50 blend of biofuel with Jet A1 fuel.The biofuel portion is derived from the oilseed crop,Camelina sativa* (49 per cent) and Brassica carinata* (one per cent). (see below)
“The two-hour preparatory flight was flawless and the bio-derived fuel performed as expected,” said Mike Arcamone, President, Bombardier Commercial Aircraft. “During the flight, the Q400 aircraft successfully undertook several maneuvers including engine-out climbs, rapid engine accelerations and cruising to verify the performance of the aircraft while using the bio-derived fuel.”
Other key partners in the biofuel program, which was first announced in 2010, include Saskatchewan-based Targeted Growth Canada (TGC), the producer of the crop of Camelina sativa and Pratt & Whitney Canada, the manufacturer of thePW150A engines that power the Q400aircraft. Funding for the program is being provided by the partners as well as by the Green Aviation Research & Development Network (GARDN).
Further details regarding Porter’s biofuel-powered revenue flight will be released in the coming weeks.
About Q400 aircraft
The Q400turboprop airliner, which is built at Bombardier’s Toronto, Ontario facility, is the advanced successor to Bombardier’s Dash 8/Q-Series family of aircraft. Optimized for short-haul operations, the “comfortably greener,” 70- to 80-seat Q400 aircraft is a large, fast, quiet and fuel-efficient turboprop. It provides an ideal balance of passenger comfort and operating economics with a reduced environmental footprint.
Setting new environmental standards, the Q400 aircraft uses 30 to 40 per cent less fuel and produces 30 to 40 per cent fewer emissions on routes where it has replaced similar-capacity, older jets. Overall, the Q400 aircraft is 15 decibels quieter than ICAO Chapter 4 noise standards; raising the bar for the entire industry.
More than 380 Q400 aircraft are in service with approximately 40 operatorsin 30 countries, on six continents. These aircrafthave transported more than 177 million passengers.
About Porter Airlines Founded in 2006, Porter Airlines has revolutionized short-haul flying with a warm and effortless approach to hospitality and restoring glamour and refinement to air travel. An Official 4 Star Airline® in the World Airline Star Rating® by Skytrax, and rated second in the world in Condé Nast Traveler’s Readers Choice Awards Top Small Airlines category, Porter is committed to providing a premium travel experience. Complimentary amenities include luxurious airport lounges, Starbucks coffee, premium snacks, and wine or beer onboard.
The airline currently offers flights to Toronto, Ottawa, Montréal, Québec City, Moncton, Halifax, St. John’s, Thunder Bay, Sault Ste. Marie, Sudbury, Timmins, Windsor, New York (Newark), Chicago (Midway), Boston (Logan), Washington, D.C., and has seasonal flights to Mt. Tremblant, Que., Myrtle Beach, S.C., and Burlington, Vt. Visit www.flyporter.com or call (888) 619-8622 for more information.
GARDN – the Green Aviation Research and Development Network is a business–led Network of Centres of Excellence. Its mission is to promote aerospace technologies aimed at the protection of the environment. The seven themes of research targeted by GARDN are: noise and source emissions reduction, materials and manufacturing processes, airport and aircraft operations, alternative fuels and product lifecycle management. GARDN’s activities are in support of the competitive excellence of Canadian aerospace products and services, the economic success of the member companies as well as the development and training of highly qualified personnel. www.gardn.org
A world-leading manufacturer of innovative transportation solutions, from commercial aircraft and business jets to rail transportation equipment, systems and services, Bombardier Inc. is a global corporation headquartered in Canada. Its revenues for the fiscal year ended December 31, 2011, were $18.3 billion, and its shares are traded on the Toronto Stock Exchange (BBD). Bombardier is listed as an index component to the Dow Jones Sustainability World and North America indexes. News and information are available at www.bombardier.comor follow us on Twitter @Bombardier.
*Camelina sativa and Brassica carinata are members of the family of flowering plants known as the Brassicaceae. The Brassicaceae also include well-known plants such as broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower and turnips.
Carinata in mustard family. Contracts designed to generate 5,000 to 10,000 acres this year
Jets are expected to make test flights this year using biofuel produced from Brassica carinata, a new oilseed in the mustard family grown in Western Canada last year.
The fuel will come from 50 acres of production last summer, but Agrisoma, the company advancing the crop and its industrial applications, plans to contract 5,000 to 10,000 acres this year.
Patrick Crampton, vice-president of business and product development for Agrisoma, told Saskatchewan mustard growers at Crop Production Week that processors tested seed from 2011.
The yellow coated, low fibre seed, also known as Ethiopian mustard, performed well at crushing plants. The oil was sent to interested aviation fuel makers.
“We are basically working with two of the major producers out there,” Crampton said.
“One is Honeywell-UOP, which has the current registered technology.… They just finished production last week and we are going to have somewhere in the neighbourhood of 800 to 1,000 litres of jet fuel produced.”
He expects test flights by military and commercial jets will be announced later this year.
“It is a key part of the development of a new market, where it is not just a new crop. It is an entirely new value chain.”
The oil is processed in a different way than for biodiesel and must produce jet fuel that is indistinguishable from the petroleum-based product to meet airline specifications.
The aviation industry is pursuing plant-based feedstocks for renewable fuels with a smaller carbon footprint. Biofuel made from jatropha, camelina and animal fat are already undergoing flight tests.
Carinata’s oil is high in erucic acid ideal for industrial applications such as jet fuel.
The crop, which is native to Ethiopia, is suited to the hotter, drier areas of the Prairies and has been in Agriculture Canada research and breeding programs for more than a decade.
Carinata maturity was three weeks later than a mid-season Argentine canola [which we call rape in the UK] when scientists first started working with it, but they were able to reduce it to only five to seven days later.
Agrisoma, which has been co-operating with Agriculture Canada, the Plant Biotechnology Institute and the Mustard 21 project, will use its gene altering technology to enhance the oil profile and yield.
“The vision is to put the biotechnology in longer term, but we are focused on launching the conventional crop right now,” Crampton said.
“Even though it is an industrial crop, we know we need to pursue full food and safety registration for the GM product. We are committed to not jeopardizing other markets. The emerging low level presence legislation that is being developed worldwide is a key factor to that launch.”
Agrisoma will have contracts in a few weeks that are designed to attract 5,000 to 10,000 acres of production by 30 to 50 farmers.
It is working with Paterson Grain on the identity preserved closed loop contracts.
The payment will be $12.50 per bushel on farm plus an incentive of $40 per acre.
Last year it was grown in three Saskatchewan locations: Kincaid, Frontier and Scott.
“The small plot yield data shows the elite line we are bringing out is 15 to 20 percent higher yield than the oriental mustard checks,” Crampton said.
The crop’s commercial success will be enhanced if there is a market for the meal left over after crushing.
Traditional mustard types produce meal that has quality protein but suffers from high glucosinolate levels that hurt its use in livestock feed rations.
“Carinata is not truly a condiment type, spicy mustard. It is kind of midrange,” Crampton said.
“It is similar to what rapeseed originally was, which had 10 percent inclusion rates for a number of livestock species, so there is a fair bit of excitement for this meal.”
Boeing, Airbus and Embraer signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) “to work together on the development of drop-in, affordable aviation biofuels,” the aircraft manufacturers announced Thursday.
The companies said in a joint statement that they have “agreed to seek collaborative opportunities to speak in unity to government, biofuel producers and other key stakeholders to support, promote and accelerate the availability of sustainable new jet fuel sources.”
Boeing Commercial Airplanes president and CEO Jim Albaugh, Airbus president and CEO Tom Enders and Embraer Commercial Aviation president Paulo Cesar Silva signed the MOU Thursday at an Air Transport Action Group (ATAG) meeting in Geneva. ATAG executive director Paul Steele (ATW Daily News, May 16, 2011) said, “Through these types of broad industry collaboration agreements, aviation is doing all it can to drive measurable reductions in carbon emissions.”
Albaugh stated, “There are times to compete and there are times to cooperate. Two of the biggest threats to our industry are the price of oil and the impact of commercial air travel on our environment.”
Damian Carrington, of the Guardian, discusses the potential benefits of the plant in East London that is to be built by 2015 by Solena, to turn London’s household waste into jet fuel. It will also produce some electricity. British Airways is pushing ahead with a plant that aims to turn half a million tonnes of Londoner’s household rubbish into 50,000 tonnes a year of jet fuel. Damian says: ” I’ll let you decide if this is greenwash or not: here’s some of the details.” BA’s Jonathan Counsel says “We accept we are a significant source of emissions, and growing,” he says. “Taking action is about earning our right to grow.” Boeing says the industry wants to get 1% biofuel into the global jet fuel supply by 2015, which equates to 600m US gallons a year. And more if it can. Why should this household waste go to aviation fuel, rather than energy for other uses? Tweet
British Airways, climate change and a load of rubbish
But British Airways is pushing ahead with a plant that aims to turn half a million tonnes of Londoner’s household rubbish into 50,000 tonnes a year of jet fuel. [That’s about 16 million gallons of green jet fuel each year.] I’ll let you decide if this is greenwash or not: here’s some of the details.
The plant will based in east London and 80 lorries a day will pour garbage into a plasma chamber, which reaches 5,000C. The resulting gas is turned into jet fuel, Jonathon Counsell, BA’s head of environment, told me at the World Biofuels Markets conference in Rotterdam. The plant, due to being pumping fuel from 2015, will have enough energy left over to generate 33MW of electricity, he says.
The output is just 2% of BA’s current global fuel needs but Counsell says: “The first plant is always the hardest. If we can make the economics works, we will build two, three, four, five, very quickly.” He says London produces 20m tonnes of waste a year, and the UK 200m tonnes.
I asked Counsell why this should reassure those concerned about aviation’s rapidly growing contribution to climate change, when BA and others seem to have to be dragged to act.
On biofuels, he says there are “no alternatives” to liquid fuels, if the industry is to meet its own goal of a 50% cut in emissions by 2050 (compared to 2005).
So why, I ask, is BA opposing the EU’s plan to make all airlines flying in and out of Europe buy some carbon pollution permits from 2013, especially when BA’s website states: “As part of our commitment to being environmental responsible [sic] we have been a long-standing supporter of emissions trading. This sits at the heart of our climate change policy as the most environmentally effective and economically efficient mechanism for addressing aviation’s CO2 emissions.”
Counsell told me: “We always said to the EU take a smaller step in the first instance, start with a smaller scheme, prove it and roll it out.” That can be translated, I would say, as “I wouldn’t start from here.” He added: “The risk of retaliation and non-compliance [from the US, Russia, China and elsewhere] is now playing out.” Which means “I told you so.”
What about where we actually are now, with the carbon trading scheme kicking in from 2013? Counsell says BA wants the EU to compromise and reduce the scope of the scheme, saying it currently risks collapsing totally and “setting us back 10 years.” That may make sense to you, or sound like “Lord make me chaste, but not yet.” But BA might be genuinely worried about a big setback, not least because non-compliance from other airlines might, at some point when the cost rises above a few Euros a flight, make a competitive difference.
Self-interest is often the best guide, and so that expressed very clearly to me by aircraft manufacturer Boeing was striking. They are backing biofuels with their own cash, despite not operating flights and therefore not being a purchaser of fuel.
“When we look out a few decades, the energy scenario for our industry does not look healthy,” Darrin Morgan, Boeing’s director of sustainable aviation, told me. “Fuel is now the number one cost for the industry, more than the aircraft, more than people. It used to be number three or four. That cost will diminish the ability of our customers to buy our aircraft.”
Morgan says the industry wants to get 1% biofuel into the global jet fuel supply by 2015, which equates to 600m US gallons a year. “That is not to say we only want 1%, we want as many percent as we can get sustainably.” He agues the bio-jet fuel industry only began in July 2011, when the international fuel standard body, ASTM international, approved it for use.
He agrees with Counsell that low-carbon biofuels are essential if the industry is to achieve the carbon-neutral growth goal it has set itself, as more efficient planes and air traffic cannot compensate for the fast growth: “That is unless developed world wants to tell the developing world you can’t fly – and good luck with that!”
So it’s biofuels or bust, according to the aviation industry. I’d be very interested in your thoughts.
(Comment from Damian Carrington, in response to the question
“Do you have any links to the biofuel industry/companies? A lot of your articles revolve around biofuels so was just wondering if you have any links to it or simply believe they are the best way forward.”
No none at al. I think sustainable biofuels will need be part of a sustainable future.)
There are lots of comments, with just a few of them copied below.
Wouldn’t it be better to turn the rubbish into electricity for everyone to use? It has got to be more efficient than turning the gas into a liquid fuel.
Whilst we continue to produce electricity by means that produce high carbon emissions any wasting of low emissions energy production on unecessary luxuries (for the large majority of journeys) such as flying is not part of a solution to the problems posed by anthropogenic climate change.
This is about the long term survival of an industry, though it is at least good to see them looking to the long term and acknowledging something of the reality we are likely to be facing.
“That is unless developed world wants to tell the developing world you can’t fly – and good luck with that!”
We should be showing the developing world that we don’t need to fly.
The plants are self-sustaining as part of the energy output is used to keep the plasma temperatures at 5000C. I believe they use around 20% of the output.
As for the trucks, [the energy used by the trucks bringing waste to the plant] they would be buring the same fuel over the same mileage covered if taking them to waste dumps.
I think biofuel is likely to be the only way the aviation industry can keep going. As long as we don’t forget that we cannot use the “waste” organic material from crops to create it, as this will need to be recycled back into soil fertility.
The same economic pressures that are forcing the airlines to adopt biofuels will force a reduction in use of oil-based fertilizers and pesticides. Which means adopting organic, permaculture style habits for soil care, which means no crop waste any more.
The idea of creating jet fuel from household waste intrigues me. Do you have any figures on if these generates more energy than it uses?
Finally what happens as we reduce the amount of household waste generated? Are we creating a link where reducing supermarket packaging leads to rising airfares?
on biofuels by Prof. Dr. Hartmut Michel of the Max-Planck-Institut for Biophysics? Some exerpts from the text:
“[O]nly 11.8 % of the energy of sunlight is stored in the form of NADPH. This value then also will be close to the upper limit for the efficiency of the photosynthetic production of biohydrogen.”
“4.5 % is considered as the upper limit of the photosynthetic efficiency of C3 plants. However, in reality, values of only around 1 % are observed, even for rapidly growing trees like poplars.”
I feel I must quote the section on Biofuels and the overall recommendations in full:
When the yields of biofuels per hectare are known, one can easily calculate how much of the energy of the sunlight is stored in the biofuels. For German “biodiesel” which is based on rapeseed, it is less than 0.1 %, for bioethanol less than 0.2 %, and for biogas around 0.3 %. However, these values even do not take into account that more than 50 % of the energy stored in the biofuel had to be invested in order to obtain the biomass (for producing fertilizers and pesticides, for ploughing the fields, for transport) and the chemical conversion into the respective biofuel. This energy normally is derived from fossil fuels. The production and use of biofuels therefore is not CO2-neutral. In particular, the energy input is very large for the production of bioethanol from wheat or maize, and some scientists doubt that there is a net gain of energy. Certainly the reduction of CO2 release is marginal. The yield of second-generation biofuels where entire plants are used may be doubled. However, the energy input probably also increases. For example, in the production of biodiesel by the Fischer–Tropsch process, hydrogen has to be added because syngas obtained from biomass contains insufficient amounts of hydrogen. Taken together, the production of biofuels constitutes an extremely inefficient land use. This statement is true also for the production of bioethanol from sugar cane in Brazil. ”
Because of the low photosynthetic efficiency and the competition of energy plants with food plants for agricultural land, we should not grow plants for biofuel production. The growth of such energy plants will undoubtedly lead to an increase in food prices, which will predominantly hit poorer people. The best use of the biomass lies in its conversion into valuable building blocks for chemical syntheses. Usage of the available biomass for heating purposes or for generating electricity in power stations, thus replacing fossil fuels, is preferable over biofuel production. The saved fuels can be used for transportation purposes. Clearing rainforests in the tropics and converting them into oil palm plantations is highly dangerous because the underlying layers of peat are oxidized and much more CO2 is released by the oxidation of organic soil material than can be fixed by the oil palms. The rainforests possess an important role for the climate and constitute a valuable resource for novel compounds for drug discovery. With respect to the carbon footprint, it would be even much better to reforest the land used to grow energy plants, because at a 1 % photosynthetic efficiency, growing trees would fix around 2.7 kg of CO2 per square meter, whereas biofuels produced with a net efficiency of 0.1 % would only replace fossil fuels which would release about 0.31 kg CO2 per m2 upon combustion!”
So the message here is clear, growing crops specifically for biofuel production is a complete waste. This needs to be stressed whenever talking about biofuels, lest people start associating all biofuels (reclaimed and crop-based) as something green.
Of course, reclamation of energy from refuse (as the plant mentioned in the article is designed to do) circumnavigates this huge inefficiency.
This is the story about the East London plant, from 2010:
British Airways and Washington, D.C.-based bioenergy firm the Solena Groupannounced on Monday a partnership to establish Europe’s first sustainable jet-fuel plant and convert trash into jet fuel.
The new fuel will be derived from waste biomass and manufactured in a new facility that can convert several types of waste materials destined for landfill into aviation fuel.The airline said it plans to use the low-carbon fuel to power part of its fleet beginning in 2014.The self-contained plant will likely be built in east London. It’s expected to convert 551,000 tons of waste into 16 million gallons of green jet fuel each year.
Quick hits about the savings:
The plant offers lifecycle greenhouse gas savings of up to 95 percent compared to fossil-fuel derived jet kerosene.
The project will reduce the volume of waste sent to landfill.
The plant itself will be CO2 neutral, and will emit oxygen, plus small quantities of nitrogen, argon, steam and carbon dioxide.
The only solid waste product is an inert vitrified slag material, which can be used as an alternative to aggregates used in construction.
Tail gas can be used to produce 20MW of excess electricity for export to the national grid or converted into steam to be used in a district heating system.
The green fuel will be produced by feeding waste into a patented high temperature gasifier that produces BioSynGas, or biomass-derived synthetic gas. Using a process known as Fischer Tropsch, the gas is converted into biofuels to produce biojet fuel and bionaphtha.
Bionaphtha is used as a blending component in gasoline, as well as a feedstock for the petrochemicals industry.
The resulting fuel would make all of British Airways’ flights at nearby London City Airport carbon-neutral, and is the equivalent of taking 48,000 cars off the road per year, BA says.
British Airways has signed a letter of intent to purchase all the fuel produced by the plant, which will be built by Solena.
“This unique partnership with Solena will pave the way for realising our ambitious goal of reducing net carbon emissions by 50 per cent by 2050,” said British Airways chief executive Willie Walsh in prepared remarks. ” We believe it will lead to the production of a real sustainable alternative to jet kerosene. We are absolutely determined to reduce our impact on climate change and are proud to lead the way on aviation’s environmental initiatives.”
Back in October 2011, three protesters stripped off at Birmingham Airport, to draw attention to the “bare faced” publicity stunt by Thomson Airways, in putting on a few flights with one engine using 50% biofuel from used cooking oil, brought 5,000 miles from a refinery in Louisiana. They have now been fined £150 each, and ordered to pay costs of £80 and a victim surcharge of £15. Thompson said they know the available volumes of used cooking oil are limited and that it can never replace total fossil kerosene consumption, and neither can vegetable oils.
THREE environmental campaigners have been fined for stripping off at Birmingham Airport.
The protesters wore nothing but red body paint when Thomson Airways promoted the UK’s first commercial flight fuelled by recycled vegetable oil last October.
Appearing at Solihull Magistrates Court this week, the members of anti-aviation group Plane Stupid pleaded guilty to contravening an airport bylaw.
Rosa Van Kesteren, 25, Paul Wilkinson, 28, and Liz Snook, 34, all of Chelsea Road, Bristol, were each fined £150 and ordered to pay costs of £80 and a victim surcharge of £15.
After the case they labelled Thomson’s claim that biofuels were green as “bare faced cheek”.
Liz Snook said: “Recycling veg oil is a great thing to do, but we don’t eat enough chips to cover even one per cent of land based vehicle needs, let alone flying.
“Biofuels in aviation are often grown on land stolen from some of the world’s poorest people.”
Thomson is among a growing number of airlines to trial biofuels, made from living things such as plants and their by-products.
Most come from agricultural crops, leading to criticism that growing and transporting them can create a bigger environmental footprint than using fossil fuels.
But scientists are now working on “second generation” biofuels, using food waste, sewage and algae.
One of the two engines on the October Thomson flight was powered with a 50/50 mix of conventional jet fuel and recycled vegetable oil, brought 5,000 miles from a refinery in Louisiana.
Thomson later ditched plans for a six-week trial of daily biofuel flights, saying one of their project partners was unable to continue, but it hopes to revisit the idea in the future.
Deirdre Kotze, Thomson Airways airline environmental manager, said: “We know the available volumes are limited and that it can never replace total fossil kerosene consumption, and neither can vegetable oils.
The only way to fry? First commercial British flight fuelled by used chip fat is met by naked protesters
7.10.2011 In response to the Thomson biofuel flight, using 50% used cooking oil in one engine, three Plane Stupid activists staged a naked protest – showing that biofuels are not green, and the Thomson PR exercise is bare faced cheek. Thomson intends, after a 6 week gap, to have many more biofuel flights in 2012. They hope to use used cooking oil, but the airline may have to use other fuels, as it is not likely to get enough of the oil – which is already much in demand. http://www.airportwatch.org.uk/?p=4613
Out of the Deep Fat Fryer … Thomson Airways and its first biofuel flight
Date added: September 30, 2011
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. Click here to view full story…
Thomson Airways’ test biofuels flight from Birmingham to Lanzarote is a hollow PR stunt
Date added: October 6, 2011
Thomson Airways’ test biofuels flight from Birmingham to Lanzarote is a hollow PR stunt that paves the way for rainforest destruction. Thomson today launches the 1st UK commercial flight run on biofuels. The biofuels Thomson will now use include virgin plant oil from the US and babassu nuts from Brazil. Both are in short supply so Thomson is likely to use unsustainable alternatives. Their publicity aims to persuade the travelling public and government, erroneously, that these biofuel flights produce less CO2 and are “greener” than usual. Click here to view full story…
A Chilean airline has operated a biofuel flight between Santiago and Concepcion, using an Airbus A320, using used cooking oil. There is the usual hype about biofuel flights, and statements about biofuels being a green future, hugely cutting carbon emissions etc etc. They say they “want to be pioneers in the use of renewable fuels in South America.” It is unclear if other flights are planned, or if they intend in future to use other “second generation” biofuels like jatropha, camelina and halophytes, or organic waste such as vegetable oils, or derived from algae.
In Chile, Netherlands-based SkyNRG has supplied LAN Chile [ an airline, http://www.lan.com ] and Air BP Copec for its first commercial flight with second generation jet fuel. The flight, which operated between the Chilean cities of Santiago and Concepcion, was conducted on an Airbus from the A320 family with CFM56-5B motors. The fuel came from used cooking oil.
The flight ended with an event held in the city of Concepcion, which was attended by Government and local authorities, and also by LAN and Air BP Copec executives.
Executive Vice President of LAN, Enrique Cueto said: “This flight represents a key step towards the future of the industry. At LAN we aim to develop sustainable biofuels for commercial aircraft with a high production potential in South America. Currently, these renewable energy sources play a significant role in global aviation and will affect, increasingly, decision-making in the industry and our company. We want to be pioneers in the use of renewable fuels in South America. ”
In turn, Lorenzo Gazmuri, general manager of Air BP Copec, emphasized the importance that this landmark has for the regional aviation and energy industries: ”This is the result of intense work for over a year, a materialization of the ongoing commitment of Copec to developing and promoting new and innovative energy solutions. We hope that in Chile and the region, the desire to promote this alternative will continue to increase and place it competitively in the market of aviation fuels in order to meet the requirements of an increasingly more demanding society in terms of sustainability.”
What are they and what is the technical reliability of biofuels?
The biofuels used in these flights can be obtained from plants such as algae, jatropha, camelina and halophytes, or organic waste such as vegetable oils, which can be processed, burned directly or converted by chemical processes to make high quality fuel.
These are known as second generation biofuels. They come primarily from sustainable raw materials, which in production do not compete with food sources or basic resources (limited resources), which is key in the care of our planet.
For aviation, biofuel meets the strict technical standards required to fly, and has the same characteristics as the regular fuel used on flights. In addition, this source has already been tested successfully by other airlines in the world, showing the same reliability as aviation kerosene on both test and commercial flights.
Using second generation biofuel in flight significantly decreases emissions of greenhouse gases, as no additional C02 is emitted into the atmosphere. [Just a bit of greenwash, and inaccurate].
The environmental manager of LAN, Enrique Guzman, said the environmental contribution would bring the use of renewable energy in aviation, would be significant: “Traditional aviation fuel comes from oil and when used on the plane releases C02. In the case of using biofuel, the CO2 released is almost the same amount that was captured by the crop during its growth, meaning that no additional CO2 is released into the atmosphere”,explainedGuzman.
Two new studies are due out soon on the failure of biofuels to cut carbon emissions. Studies find that taking the ILUC ( Indirect Land Use Change ) effects into account, biofuels – especially biodiesel – is often worse that fossil fuel, and if there are savings, they are small. The EU has assumed, for its road transport biofuel policies, that biofuels can help cut road transport carbon emissions by 60% by 2050. They cannot. One study says some biofuels are “so bad for the environment that its benefits cannot even be calculated.” The other that the savings are small and will not deliver the carbon savings sought.
Two reports suggest biofuel could do more harm than good.
The debate over whether biofuel does more environmental harm than good has reached boiling point in the European Commission – and two new studies are likely to raise the temperature further.
A report to be published later this month on the cost-effectiveness of policies to decarbonise transport concludes that without weeding out the biofuel that causes indirect land-use change (ILUC), the fuel source is so bad for the environment that its benefits cannot even be calculated.
“Most of the models predict a net increase of greenhouse gases when incorporating the ILUC effect for biodiesel,” says a draft of the report, written by a group of consultancies including CE Delft. “For these biofuels, determining the cost-effectiveness in terms of euros/tonne of carbon dioxide reduction makes no sense.”
The finding is embarrassing for the Commission, which in 2007 set a target of 10% of transport to be fuelled from renewable sources by 2020. Since then, evidence has mounted that some types of biofuel cause more emissions than they save because of the amount of land needed to grow them.
The Commission’s climate and energy departments are locked in a battle on the subject. The climate department wants biofuel to be given different weightings, so those types causing the most ILUC will count least towards meeting the 10% requirement in the renewable-energy directive. But the energy department, with support from the trade and agriculture departments, is resisting such a move.
A compromise was reached last year that would have put the ILUC issues in the fuel-quality directive, which obliges suppliers to reduce the greenhouse-gas intensity of their fuels by 6% by 2020. However, the deal fell apart in January. Because suppliers have to meet the targets of both the renewable-energy and fuel-quality directives, ILUC factors in either one would likely cause a collapse in business for those biofuel types thought to cause ILUC, such as biodiesel.
“In the last years, results from numerous studies present large discrepancies when addressing CO2 emissions of biofuels,” said Raffaello Garofalo, the secretary-general of the European Biodiesel Board.
“A legislative proposal based on inconclusive and disputable evidence could severally jeopardise the EU‘s ambitious targets to reduce its carbon footprint – and biodiesel is a large contributor to the member states’ national action plans to meet the 2020 targets,” he said.
Green groups are warning that the uncertainty over ILUC is causing policy confusion.
Another consultancy report to be published in the coming weeks concludes that if biofuel’s lifecycle emissions, rather than just direct emissions, from ILUC are taken into account in the Commission’s transport white paper, the EU would achieve little more than half of its goal of reducing transport emissions by 60% by 2050.
The Commission declined to comment on what direct emissions-savings from biofuel compared to fossil fuels were assumed in the transport white paper, but an official involved in the discussions said it was around 50%. By comparison, an impact assessment on ILUC by the energy department leaked last autumn concluded that biofuel delivers a 21% savings with no action to mitigate the effects of ILUC.
As the proposal to deal with ILUC sits stalled in the Commission, environmental campaign groups are stepping up the pressure. “Biofuel from fuel crops will not help deliver the emissions cuts that are needed,” said Nusa Urbancic of green group Transport & Environment. “Politicians need to address ILUC in a robust way, so that there is investment certainty over which biofuels genuinely deliver climate benefits.”
China is expected to use 12 million metric tonnes of aviation biofuels per year by 2020, which the China CAA says will account for 30% of the country’s total use of jet fuel (which is about 20 million metric tonnes per year now, rising up to 40 million by 2020), according to the deputy director of the Civil Aviation Administration of China. He says the EU ETS will prompt China to develop jet biofuels, which will be put into wide commercial use before 2020, when the country is expected to be using more than 40 million metric tonnes of jet fuel a year. China now wants to produce the biofuel more cheaply. The fuel is entirely, or largely, from jatropha. China hopes that biofuels emit less carbon. By 2020 the Civil Aviation Administration of China wants to improve energy efficiency and reduce emissions of greenhouse gas by 22% below what they were in 2005 – per passenger kilometer (not in total). With rapidly growing passenger numbers, there will be a net increase (almost a doubling?) in carbon emissions by 2020. The fuel is entirely, or largely, from jatropha.
China is expected to use 12 million metric tonnes of aviation biofuels by 2020, accounting for 30% of the country’s total use of jet fuel, according to Li Jian, deputy director of the Civil Aviation Administration of China.
The market value of jet biofuels will exceed 120 billion yuan ($19 billion) by 2020, Li said on Tuesday. He said the new carbon-emissions tax the European Union is imposing on airlines will prompt China to develop jet biofuels, which will be put into wide commercial use before 2020, when the country is expected to be using more than 40 million metric tonnes of jet fuel a year.
Li said China now has the technology needed to produce jet biofuels and only needs to produce the substances more cheaply to sell them commercially.
China currently consumes about 20 million metric tonnes of jet fuel a year.
Jet biofuel, made from renewable resources, is considered to be cleaner for the environment, giving off less carbon during production than traditional jet fuels.
Statistics from UOP LLC, a subsidiary of Honeywell International Inc, suggest that the use of biofuels can help reduce emissions of greenhouse gases by as much as 85% below the level released by burning fossil fuels.
Because of the aviation industry’s greater emission of greenhouse gases, by 2020 the Civil Aviation Administration of China wants to improve energy efficiency and reduce emissions of greenhouse gas by 22% below what they were in 2005. [ This is per passenger kilometer (not in total). With rapidly growing passenger numbers, there will be a net increase in carbon emissions. With a doubling of Chinese aviation fuel burned expected between now and 2020].
China Petrochemical Corp, or Sinopec Group, which contributes 73% of the country’s output of jet fuel, announced on Tuesday that it had successfully produced jet biofuel at its chemical plant in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province.
The company, which began researching and developing aviation biofuels in 2009, has applied to the aviation administration to undergo an aircraft air-worthiness examination. The administration has not said when a decision on the application will be released.
Unless the aviation administration concludes that aviation biofuels are safe, they may not be used in commercial flights.
Sinopec’s rival, China National Petroleum Corp, the country’s biggest oil producer, delivered 15 tonnes of aviation oil last June to help Air China Ltd to test out flights powered by biofuel. The fuel had been extracted from the inedible plant jatropha, which is grown in Southwest China.
Air China made a demonstration flight in October 2011 using a fuel that was half made of petroleum-based fuel and half of an aviation biofuel produced from jatropha. The fuel, which was used in one engine of a Boeing 747-400 aircraft, was made by the China National Petroleum Corp and Honeywell’s UOP.
China National Petroleum Corp plans to build a refinery to produce 60,000 tonnes of the biofuel a year by 2014. [ That is a drop in the ocean compared to their target of 12 millionmetric tonnes per year].
Facing pressures to conserve energy and reduce carbon dioxide emissions, the aviation administration is encouraging more companies to help develop aviation biofuels, Li said.
Friends of the Earth International say the German airline Lufthansa has recently been using biokerosene made from jatropha, an inedible plant. The airline claims that flying on biokerosene is good for the environment despite numerous studies claiming the opposite. The jatropha used for Lufthansa’s test flights is grown in Indonesia by small scale farmers. The jatropha plants are often being grown at the cost of food production – jatropha competes with food crops such as maize for land – and the farmers are making a loss on the sale of the plants, so are struggling to survive. FoEI is asking people to write to Lufthansa and ask them to stop using biokerosene to fly their planes. KLM is continuing with part biofuelled flights, 4 per week, using some biofuel from used cooking oil, between Schiphol and Paris.
AMSTELVEEN, February 21, 2012 — This week KLM started with the continuation of the total 200 biofuel flights from Schiphol Airport to Charles de Gaulle, Paris.
The purpose of this series of flights is to demonstrate that it is possible to mix sustainable biofuel on a serie of scheduled flights. Herewith, KLM wants to stimulate the developments in the field of sustainable air traffic. This is done in collaboration with the WWF. [Very regrettable that the WWF branch in the Netherlands has done this. Not all country branches of WWF agree] .
KLM believes that only a sustainable alternative to current fossil kerosene actually leads to reduction of CO2 emissions in the medium term. For this purpose, since late 2007 KLM is doing research for sustainably produced biofuels * and hopes that more parties will follow its example in order to decrease the price of biofuel.
The four daily flights are operated on fuel mixed with some biofuel. The biofuel is made from discarded frying oil and developed and delivered by SkyNRG, from which KLM is co-initiator. Already 7 years in a row AIR FRANCE KLM is sector leader in the Dow Jones Sustainability Index.
* A biofuel is considered sustainable when its cultivation is not at the expense of food production, or biodiversity and does not lead to deforestation, overuse of water and pesticides. In addition, there are also various social criteria.
KLM operates first scheduled flight on 50% biokerosene from used cooking oil in both engines
Date added: June 30, 2011 KLM has became the first airline to operate a commercial flight carrying 171 passengers on 50% biokerosene. A Boeing 737-800 flew from Schiphol to Paris. KLM says they would be operating more than 200 flights to Paris on biokerosene in September. The fuel was supplied by Dynamic Fuels via SkyNRG, the consortium co-founded by KLM in 2009. “KLM is open to using different raw materials …. as long as they meet a range of sustainability criteria”. Click here to view full story…
KLM to launch commercial flights in September Amsterdam – Paris on biofuel (? used cooking oil ?)
Date added: June 23, 2011 KLM says it will fly more than 200 flights between Amsterdam and Paris on biokerosene made from used cooking oil. It does not say what percent of the fuel the used oil will be. KLM then says it will use other fuels too, as long as they meet their sustainability criteria and include substantial CO2 reductions. In practice there is nowhere near enough used cooking oil available, most of which is already used as biodiesel for land vehicles, and other uses. Click here to view full story…
Friends of the Earth International
Call on Lufthansa to stop using biokerosene
Please write to Lufthansa and ask them to stop using biokerosene to fly their planes.
The German airline Lufthansa has recently been using biokerosene made from jatropha, an inedible plant. The airline claims that flying on biokerosene is good for the environment despite numerous studies claiming the opposite.
The jatropha used for Lufthansa’s test flights is grown in Indonesia by small scale farmers.
A recent visit by Friends of the Earth Netherlands (Milieudefensie) revealed that the plants are often being grown at the cost of food production – jatropha competes with food crops such as maize for land – and the farmers are making a loss on the sale of the plants. As a consequence they are struggling to survive.
Please write to Lufthansa and ask them to stop using biokerosene to fly their planes.
Availability and sustainability key challenges, says Lufthansa, as biofuel trials end with first commercial transatlantic flight
Date added: January 26, 2012
The six-month trial by Lufthansa using biofuel blends on the route between Hamburg and Frankfurt has ended with its first scheduled commercial transatlantic biofuel flight on January 12. In all, 1,187 scheduled flights were carried out between July and December using an Airbus A321 with a 50-50 blend of regular fuel and biosynthetic kerosene in one engine. Total consumption of the biokerosene mix amounted to 1,556 tonnes, says the airline, and initial calculations suggest CO2 emissions were reduced by 1,471 tonnes as a result. [Based on what evidence ?? That is assuming the fuel produces overall about two thirds less carbon than conventional kerosene ? **] Click here to view full story…
New FoE report on jatropha cultivation for aviation biokerosene in Java
Date added: February 16, 2012
A new report by Friends of the Earth Netherlands, and Friends of the Earth Indonesia investigates the situation in Java, where jatropha and other crops are being grown to produce biokerosene for Lufthansa’s “Burn Fair” programme. The report finds that Javanese farmers and workers have converted some of their land from food to fuel crops, in return for ridiculously low payments. They have had a fall in income, conflict and frustration. Indonesian farmers feel the lifeblood of Indonesia will be tapped for the benefit of wealthier people in Europe and elsewhere. Biofuel crops are putting pressure on land for food. The report says this growing of biofuels for aviation fuel is putting a double pressure on the poor in the global south: both in climate change and food prices. Click here to view full story…
Air China test-flies 50% jatropha biofuel-powered Boeing 747
Date added: October 30, 2011 An Air China Boeing 747-400 took off from the Beijing airport, flew for 2 hours, and landed back at Beijing. It used 50% jatropha. This is one of a series of research projects launched last year by the US and China, the world’s two biggest oil consumers. The fuel was developed by Boeing, Honeywell UOP, Chinese oil company PetroChina and Air China. They say a commercial biofuel should be available in three to five years. Click here to view full story…
Lufthansa will get its biofuel from Neste Oil, with palm oil likely to be sneaked into the mix
Date added: July 22, 2011 This is a very worrying article about biofuel Lufthansa will be getting from Neste Oil, which is well known for using large quantities of palm oil. It appears that though Lufthansa is saying all the suitable greenwash things about its flights at present, using only camelina, jatropha and animal fats, as Neste Oil deals largely with palm oil, it is likely that so called “sustainably sourced” palm oil will get into the mix, and Lufthansa is not bothered about that. Click here to view full story…
Lufthansa A321 partially powered (50%) by biofuel to enter service Friday
Date added: July 12, 2011 Lufthansa plans start its scheduled biofuel flights Friday, launching a 6-month trial in which an IAE V2500-powered Airbus A321 will operate on the Frankfurt-Hamburg route. It will use a 50-50 mix of biofuel and traditional kerosene in one engine, and is due to operate 8 daily legs between FRA and HAM. LH estimates it will save around 1,500 tons of CO2 emissions over the 6 months – but give no indication how this figure is obtained. Click here to view full story…
Friends of the Earth Europe report on aviation biofuels – Flying in the Face of the Facts
Date added: June 21, 2011 European airlines fuelling aeroplanes with biofuels is greenwashing, and flies in the face of recommendations from major international institutions, FoE Europe have said on the opening of the Paris air show. The European aviation industry, with support from the European Commission, is expected to announce plans to use 2 million tonnes of bio-kerosene per year by 2020. This is diverting political attention from the real need to cut air travel in order to reduce climate change. Click here to view full story…
This GreenAir article says Bloomberg analysts think that while aviation will not use oils from palm, rape or soya on any scale, the industry may be able to source biofuels from non-food crops that are commercially viable, within years. They reckon that while conventional jet kerosene costs about $0.86 per litre now, jet fuel could be produced at $0.86/litre by 2018 if production of jatropha and camelina was scaled up, with pyrolysis of woody feedstock producing jet fuel at $0.90/litre at around the same time. Liquid fuels made using the Fischer-Tropsch process to convert woody biomass is unlikely to produce jet fuel cheaper than $2.60/litre in 2018. Large-scale, biofuel-producing algae farms will not appear this decade. However, available volume is going to be limited and airlines will be in competition for it. Costs of biofuel are currently very much higher than paying for ETS carbon permits.
Some non-food vegetable oil-based aviation biofuels could be cost-competitive by the end of the decade, finds Bloomberg study
Wed 15 Feb 2012
Aviation biofuels from non-food vegetable oils like jatropha could become cost competitive with conventional jet fuel by 2018
If production efficiency continues to improve, the cost of some biofuels – such as those based on hydro-treated non-food vegetable oils from jatropha and camelina, or from pyrolysis of cellulosic feedstocks – could become competitive with the cost of fossil-based jet fuel by 2018.
This is the main finding of research carried out by Bloomberg New Energy Finance for its clients.
On the other hand, fuels produced from woody feedstock through gasification and the Fischer Tropsch (F-T) process are unlikely to be economical until well into the next decade. The researchers suggest that subsidies or mandates [government targets for biofuel use] will be required if governments wish to see a sizeable take-up of aviation biofuels before 2020 and airlines will have to compete with road transport for the limited availability of certified, low-cost supplies.
Established biofuels based on edible vegetable oils such as soybean, rapeseed and palm may never become fully cost competitive, suggests the research, although sustainability issues make it highly improbable airlines will use fuels from these sources in any case.
Although unlikely to be certified much before 2014, it adds, wood-conversion through the pyrolysis process may be more promising for producing cost-competitive jet biofuel before the end of this decade.
“The problem is that for the foreseeable future, even when the economics make sense, there will simply be limited availability of certified and relatively low-cost biofuel,” says Harry Boyle, Lead Bioenergy Analyst at Bloomberg New Energy Finance.
“If governments want airlines to burn a significant proportion of non-fossil fuel before 2020, they will have either to subsidise advanced-but-not-yet-economic biofuels or, more likely, introduce mandates requiring carriers to use a certain percentage of sustainable biofuels in their mix, and put up with complaints that this is driving up ticket prices.”
Adds Boyle: “The US government has mandated that 18 billion gallons (68bn litres) of road transport fuel will have to come from next-generation, or cellulosic, biofuel by 2022. Western governments could do the same for next-generation aviation biofuels, starting any time from 2018, as a way of stimulating a potentially significant industry and reducing air transport emissions.”
For those airlines complaining about the cost of buying allowances to comply with the EU Emissions Trading Scheme, the report shows this will be relatively minor compared to the additional price airlines would have to pay to burn biofuels rather than conventional jet fuel in the next few years.
Compared to current jet fuel prices of around $0.85 per litre, aviation fuel from edible feedstock could potentially be supplied at $1.20/litre if producers moved to large-scale production, estimate the researchers.
A better result should be possible using jatropha, they say. If production were to scale up, jet fuel could be produced at $0.86/litre by 2018, with pyrolysis of woody feedstock producing jet fuel at $0.90/litre at around the same time.
Even with rapid efficiency improvements in the next few years, using F-T to process woody biomass is unlikely to produce jet fuel cheaper than $2.60/litre in 2018. The researchers predict large-scale, biofuel-producing algae farms will not appear this decade and so algae-based jet fuel is the pathway furthest from cost parity with conventional jet kerosene.
Despite the cost differential, the researchers have encouraging words for early adopters of aviation biofuels.
“The move by the European Union to bring all airlines into the EU ETS carbon trading scheme has focused the minds of airlines around the world on reducing their carbon emissions,” says Michael Liebreich, Chief Executive of Bloomberg New Energy Finance. “While European carbon credits at the moment are so cheap they have negligible effects on ticket prices, biofuels will be competitive within a decade. However, available volume is going to be limited and airlines will be in competition for it, so those airlines which move now are likely to have an advantage later.”
Claire Curry of Bloomberg New Energy Finance will be presenting the findings at an aviation conference next month during the World Biofuels Markets in Rotterdam.