Boeing executive: Industry ‘begging’ for biofuels – they need quality and quantity

A Boeing executive has said the global aviation industry is actively seeking to incorporate biofuels in its aircraft.  The airline industry is “begging” for biofuels and is committed to using them in their fleets.  He was speaking at the  Ag Innovation Showcase in St. Louis. He said his industry is a market  just waiting for people biofuel producers to scale their products up, and if they can produce these fuels in large amounts, aviation will buy them.  Airlines are having to reduce their carbon footprint and one means to do this is the use of biofuels. Boeing said  the world’s fleet of 20,000 commercial aircraft is expected to grow to 40,000 in 20 years. That is likely to bring the % of aviation CO2 emissions to 4% (probably more) out of the global anthropogenic CO2 total. The industry is aware that CO2 emissions are a problem for their unfettered growth. The industry can only grow hugely if it can make some efficiency improvement, find a magic bullet in biofuels, or trade carbon permits with other sectors. Boeing hopes biofuels will halve aviation’s CO2 emissions by 2050. (Not very likely – where can they locate that much genuinely “sustainable” biofuel from, that is not being used by other sectors?).

Boeing executive: Industry ‘begging’ for biofuels

October 05, 2012  (AgriNews online)

Boeing Co. executive Jim Tracy, speaking at the Ag Innovation Showcase in St. Louis, says the aviation industry is actively seeking to incorporate biofuels in its aircraft and has set some lofty goals. ST. LOUIS — The global airline industry is “begging” for biofuels and is committed to using them in their fleets, according to an executive with a major airplane manufacturer.

Jim Tracy, a senior vice president and chief technology officer with the Boeing Co., came to the region to seek help for advanced development of renewable fuels.

“I bring very good news to this group,” said Tracy, speaking at the Ag Innovation Showcase. “The commercial aviation business is begging for a high-quality, high-quantity biofuel to come into the market.

“There’s a market here just waiting for people like you to scale these products up. If you build it, we will buy it.”

Airlines are committed to reducing their carbon footprint and have been taking steps to meet that goal. Among them is the use of biofuels.

Tracy pointed out that the world’s fleet of 20,000 commercial aircraft is expected to grow to 40,000 in 20 years.

“When doubling the fleet, you’ve got to be concerned about increasing manmade CO2 you’re putting into the atmosphere,” he said. “We’re very sensitive about the amount of CO2 that commercial operations put into the environment.”

Aviation contributes about 2 percent of the total manmade carbon emissions, and a doubling of the fleet would expand that to 3 percent or 4 percent by 2030, according to Tracy. Biofuels will play an important role in an ambitious goal by the industry.

“Our vision is that by 2050 we will have half of the CO2 being produced that was being produced in 2005,” Tracy said. “I don’t mean reducing the growth rate by half. I mean half of the CO2 produced by commercial airplanes in 2005 will be gone. The only way we can achieve that is by biofuels.

“The reason I’m here is, I want your help. We can’t achieve our vision for commercial aviation without your innovation and creativity, without your developing new businesses that efficiently produce the feedstock products and get them into the market.”

Renewable energy is only one of a number of strategies the industry is embracing in order to reduce carbon emissions. Boeing and its competitors have a more direct role by producing more efficient aircraft, including a commitment to making future models 15% more efficient.

The passenger industry also is working at increasing efficiency through air traffic management. That includes reducing circling maneuvers prior to landing and spending less time with engines running on the runway.

“We believe you can reduce the amount of fuel used by 12 percent just by a more efficient system,” Tracy said. “And you’ll be happier because you wouldn’t be sitting on the ground or you wouldn’t be in the air as long.”

Renewable fuel, however, is a major component because of the sheer volume of petroleum used in the aviation industry. Fuel comprises 40 percent of the airlines’ cost, a total of $176 billion annually

“That’s before they paid the crews. That’s before they bought the airplanes,” Tracy said. “Fuel is their biggest single expense. The price, availability and quality — these are all huge things to our business. We’re hopeful that by 2020 the cost will be competitive, as well. By 2030, 30 percent of the fuel can be biofuel and by 2040, 50 percent of it.”

The industry is actively looking at all sources of renewable energy, including oilseeds, sugar, cellulosic and algae.

All have pros and cons, according to Tracy. That’s why the industry is encouraging scientists to develop the most efficient types.

Tracy stressed that sources should be diverse and distributed across the globe, so that sufficient supplies may be found in all regions.

They should also be tank-ready, he said, unlike hydrogen fuels for cars, which require manufacturing alterations or special fueling stations.

Use of aviation biofuels is not a pipe dream. Tracy pointed out that planes have been flying for several years using some form of renewable fuels.

More than 1,500 commercial flights have operated using some biofuel. The Department of Defense also has begun using biofuels in its airplanes.

Boeing has no intention in getting involved directly with biofuels production, according to Tracy. Instead, the company is acting as a cheerleader of sorts, encouraging advances in the industry.

“We want to serve as a catalyst and bring people together, whether they’re agronomists or biologists or chemical engineers, to encourage them that this market is there and it’s waiting,” he said.