Airlines looking at Biofuel to reduce oil dependency

24.12.2009   (Flights and Fares)

Many airlines are looking at alternative fuels to reduce their oil dependence.
The latest move: 15 major airlines and air-cargo companies said they are negotiating
to buy billions of gallons of fuels made from vegetable oil, coal and petroleum
coke, a byproduct of refining petroleum.

In recent years, several airlines have flown test flights with biofuels or other
synthetic fuels in their tanks. Last week, a group of 13 airlines—including big
names like AMR Corp.’s American Airlines, Delta Air Lines Inc.’s Delta and Deutsche
Lufthansa AG’s Lufthansa—signed a memorandum of understanding with Rentech Inc.
to buy jet fuel made from coal and petroleum coke at a proposed plant in Mississippi.
Rentech says its fuel has a smaller carbon footprint than petroleum, because the
CO2 excreted in production will end up injected in a Gulf Coast oil reservoir
(a process known as carbon capture). In September, the Federal Aviation Administration
approved use of this type of fuel in commercial flights when blended with equal
quantities of traditional jet fuel.

There is debate about exactly how clean fuels such as those made by Rentech are.
During flight, fuels like those burn much more cleanly than traditional jet fuel,
says Lourdes Maurice, chief scientist and acting director of the FAA Office of
Environment and Energy. But even with carbon capture, there is only a “small reduction”
of emissions over the life cycle of the product, compared with traditional jet
fuel, she says. A Department of Energy study from January 2009 found a “significant,”
5% to 12% reduction of greenhouse gases over the life cycle of fuels like those
produced by Rentech, compared with traditional fuel.


 AMR Corp.  
Delta Air Lines  
Deutsche Lufthansa 
Alaska Airlines    
Hawaiian Holdings