Airbus and EADS join Chinese venture to develop algae-based jet fuels, with demo flight planned for 2013
Airbus, EADS Innovation Works and Chinese bio-energy company ENN have signed a Memorandum of Understanding to work together in assessing the potential for developing alternative aviation fuels based on microalgae oils produced in China. The scope of the collaboration includes technical qualification of such fuels and to promote their use for aviation in China, which has one of the world’s fastest growing aviation markets. ENN says it is able to produce more than 10 tons of algae-based oil per year. They plan to have test flights in 2013 using oil supplied by ENN and afterwards look to scale up the alternative fuel production process to produce more. They will also be developing tools to assess the environmental, economic and societal impact of the technology. EADS claims that algae, fed on waste CO2 from power plants, can be grown on poor quality land using non-potable or salt water, so their cultivation does not compete with food production. And ENN says a hectare of microalgae could process 15,000 to 80,000 litres of oil. [ But there are huge scalability problems. Link ]
Airbus and EADS join Chinese venture to develop algae-based jet fuels, with demo flight planned for 2013
16.11.2012 (GreenAir online)
Airbus, EADS Innovation Works and leading Chinese bio-energy company ENN,[ a Chinese energy “clean” company] have signed a memorandum of understanding to partner in assessing the potential for developing alternative aviation fuels based on microalgae oils produced in China. The scope of the collaboration includes technical qualification of such fuels and to promote their use for aviation in China, one of the world’s fastest growing aviation markets. ENN has developed one of the most advanced pilot plants in the world and is able to produce more than 10 tons of algae-based oil per year. An objective is after a technical assessment to plan test flights to take place in 2013 using oil supplied by ENN and afterwards look to scale up the alternative fuel production process to achieve sustainable quantities of aviation fuel for flight use.
In the initial first phase of the project, the partners will work together on a maturity assessment of algae oil technology, on oil testing and analysis, and on the development of tools to assess the environmental, economic and societal impact of the technology.
Certain species of algae contain high amounts of oil that can be extracted, processed and refined. Microalgae reproduce rapidly and create at least 30 times more organic substance per cultivation area than, for example, rapeseed, claims EADS, and consume large amounts of CO2. As algae can be grown on poor quality land using non-potable or salt water, their cultivation does not compete with food production. ENN says a hectare of microalgae could process 15,000 to 80,000 litres of oil.
Set up in 2007, the ENN Biomass Energy Technology Center has focused on research of CO2-microalgae-biodiesel technology and has recently established a 5,000-tonne biodiesel demonstration project in Inner Mongolia for recycling use of CO2 from coal-fired power plants and chemical plants as well as bio-energy production. ENN has so far developed 70 technologies with proprietary intellectual property rights in biomass energy, such as light bioreactor and biodiesel production.
“Applying algae biotechnology to produce clean energy using industrial waste, including CO2 and wastewater, is part of our carbon recycle programme,” explained Dr Zhongxue Gan, CTO of ENN Group. “Sustainability is crucial to our environment and the global community. ENN, as a clean energy provider, and Airbus, as an energy consumer, are striving to make sure that algal jet fuel can be delivered and used to reduce carbon emissions for the airline industry.”
Airbus will support the necessary fuel tests and qualification activities leading to the deployment of the sustainable alternative fuels for commercial flights and will coordinate the participation of external partners such as engine manufacturers and airlines.
“We are privileged to be working with ENN to determine how we can best contribute to a sustainable aviation sector in China,” said Frédéric Eychenne, New Energies Programme Manager for Airbus, which is involved in a global programme to set up regional sustainable aviation biofuel value chains on every continent. “The commercialisation of new generation alternative fuels is one of the essential ingredients in our quest to achieving ambitious environmental targets in aviation.”
EADS has been in the forefront of promoting microalgae as a promising pathway for the production of aviation biofuels.
“We have already proven that it is technically feasible to fly with algae oil,” said EADS CTO Jean Botti at this week’s China International Air Show in Zhuhai. “Now we need to demonstrate that the industrial production of algae-based biofuel is both ecologically and economically viable.”
But there remain huge problems with growing algae in sufficient quantities for commercially viable fuel.
30 November 2011 (BBC)
Algae fuel firms face moment of truth
one extract from which says:
….. “none has yet succeeded in producing fuel commercially and at scale.
Instead, many firms have shut down. In 2009, MIT spin-off Greenfuel Technologies closed after $70m (£44m) of investment to build its own mini-algae plant.
“No-one knows how to grow any kind of micro-organism at very large scale – multiple hectares,” says Prof Jerry Brand from the University of Texas in Austin, which is leading research in the field.
“As you scale up, it’s not that things get cheaper, but that new problems emerge.”
One problem is that despite being very small, you can’t actually grow algae very densely. The algae closest to the light – or the surface of the water – block the light for algae lower down.
Another is harvesting the green gloop, or the oil it produces.”
………… and it continues …………
Growing Biofuels on “Surplus” Land May Be Harder Than Estimated
Date added: October 22, 2012
Degraded or marginal lands may not be able to productively support the growth of biofuel crops, contrary to previous reports. Biofuels companies hope that surplus land, or land unused in either conservation or agricultural production, offers an elegant solution to the food versus fuel arguments that have plagued bioenergy. The problem, according to a new study in the journal BioRisk, is that the productive capacity of known surplus lands may be greatly overestimated. It is necessary to ascertain “who’s living on the land, who’s working on the land, what ecosystems services you’re dealing with — we might find out there’s a whole lot of land we just can’t convert into anything else.” Availability of water, soil quality, conservation requirements, GHG emssions from disturbed soils and existing habitation or other human use are all factors that need to be taken into consideration — and have sometimes been ignored — when designating marginal land for the production of biofuel.Even hearty species like switchgrass and miscanthus tend to yield less biomass when planted in nutrient-poor or degraded soil.
Boeing executive: Industry ‘begging’ for biofuels – they need quality and quantity
Date added: October 16, 2012
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).
Lufthansa turns to algae and municipal solid waste as sources of jet biofuel
Date added: September 23, 2012
In a long and detailed article, with customary thoroughness, Green Air examines what is happening with Lufthansa and jet biofuel. While Solena has still not announced progress on building a plant in east London to produce jet fuel from London’s municipal waste for BA, it is progressing in Germany. There are plans in the Schwedt/Oder region of eastern Germany to build a Solena facility, using waste from landfills and incinerators. They hope to convert more than 520,000 tonnes of waste biomass into jet fuel, diesel fuel and electricity. Lufthansa is also looking to obtain jet fuel made from algae by Australian based Algae.Tec, which plans to grow algae in 40 ft shipping containers, using light capture arrays and light tubes, and CO2 from an industrial source – as well as water and minerals. Algae.Tec have so far opened a one-container test facility south of Sydney.
Airbus and Boeing collaborating with Chinese on aviation biofuels – using “gutter oil”
Date added: September 13, 2012
Airbus has joined forces with China’s Tsinghua University to promote the production and use of aviation biofuel in China. They will look at a wide range of feedstocks, including used cooking oil, that might (?) otherwise be wasted, and also algae. The full sustainability analysis should be completed by the beginning of 2013. It hopes to produce useful quantities of aviation fuel for commercial use. In August, Boeing and Commercial Aircraft Corp of China (COMAC) opened a joint technology center in Beijing dedicated to aviation fuel and emissions. They say China annually consumes approximately 29 million tons of cooking oil, while its aviation system uses 20 million tons of jet fuel. There is a lot of dirty “gutter oil” from restaurants, which has been illicitly re-used in food. There are forecasts that passenger traffic in China will surpass 300 million this year and will reach 1.5 billion passengers by 2030.
Aviation biofuels: which airlines are doing what, with whom?
Date added: September 10, 2012
News of airlines doing test flights using a proportion of biofuel seems to have gone a bit quiet this year. Biofuels Digest has done a round up of what they know about which airlines are linked up with which fuel companies. It appears most of the trial flights used recycled cooking oil, which cannot be a significant component of jet fuel in future as there is just not enough of it. And the realisation is dawning that biofuels compete with food crops for land, water and nutrients. Also it should be asked why aviation should be the recipient of scarce and precious supplies of the few biofuelsl that are genuinely sustainable, and do not have ILUC (indirect land use change) implications.
Boeing, Air China and PetroChina aim for 2nd 50% jatropha biofuel flight test in autumn
Date added: June 14, 2012
Boeing in cooperation with Air China and PetroChina, will press ahead with a 2nd test flight that will be partly powered by jatropha. The flight will be in the last quarter of 2012, and be a trans-Pacific trip, far longer than the one-hour test flight that was conducted in China last October. That flight used 50% jatropha based fuel. China wants to produce more jet fuel from jatropha, which it claims can be produced from large areas of “barren land” where it might grow. The aim of the biofuel flight is to prove that a China-produced biofuel works, and to ensure “regulators and airlines around the world are comfortable using it for commercial flights.”