China to launch first aviation biofuel flight this year

26.5.2010   (Reuters)

China will launch its first flight using aviation biofuel this year after signing
an agreement with U.S. aviation giant Boeing in Beijing on Wednesday

At a ceremony after the U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue meeting, Boeing
agreed to collaborate on the launch with carrier Air China (0753.HK) and oil major PetroChina (0857.HK), which will provide the jatropha-based fuel feedstock for the project.


Al Bryant, vice-president of Boeing’s research and technology department in China,
told reporters the new fuel was expected to be commercially viable within three
to five years.


“We believe in three to five years we should see a portion of fuel in commercial
aviation (using biofuel), but a lot has to be done,” he said.


“We’ve proven it can be flown and it is a matter of scaling it up to make it
commercially viable.”


Four test biofuel flights have already been conducted in the United States, and
Bryant said China was now the focus of development because “they have made the
decision to move faster”.


Aviation is responsible for about 2 percent of total global greenhouse emissions,
and the entire industry aims to become carbon neutral by 2050 through the use
of alternative fuels.


China aims to replace at least 15% of total diesel and gasoline consumption with
biofuel by 2020.


It has a number of pilot ethanol fuel projects in the farming belts of central
and northeast China, but it has been wary of traditional processing methods because
of concerns about food security and the impact on grain prices.


After banning the use of corn and edible oil in 2006 and suspending all new licenses
for bioethanol projects in 2007, China is focusing on new-generation variants
processed from agricultural waste, cellulosic materials or hardy but inedible
oil-bearing plants like jatropha.


“The United States relied on corn to produce biofuel but relying on crops has
been criticised, and second-generation biofuels are more significant for China,”
said Zhang Guobao, head of the country’s National Energy Administration.