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Biofuels “Better” Than Standard Jet Fuel, Says Boeing

NewEnergyFocus – 27-10-08

Aviation experts have said it is now “unequivocally” certain that biofuels could be used to fuel aircraft – and that they could even deliver better performance than standard kerosene.

The government is expected tomorrow (October 28) to include aviation within its proposed tougher climate change emission curbs being added to the Climate Change Bill.

But while airlines would be able to buy surplus carbon emission allowances from other sectors to comply with their new requirements, it now appears that direct emission cuts from greener fuels could be possible.

Virgin Atlantic flight VS811P preparing for take-off in February this year: the 747-400 aircraft flew from Heathrow to Amsterdam powered by jet fuel that included coconut oil and babassu nut oil

Boeing has revealed that new technology available in the last 12 months has now opened the door to biofuels in aircraft.

Speaking at a conference earlier this month, Boeing Commercial Airplanes’ director of environmental business analysis, Darrin Morgan, said its work with Virgin Atlantic is now spurring the biofuels supply chain to consider the possibilities of aviation demand.

As a result, he predicted that aircraft manufacturers would now get “very involved” in the search for aviation biofuels.

Commenting on the latest tests on biofuels in aircraft, Mr Morgan told the Westminster Energy, Environment and Transport Forum: “Not only do they perform as well, but with some data that you are going to see roll out in the next couple of months from various initiatives and efforts, they actually perform better, just from a technical perspective, in the aeroplanes.”

Boeing’s trial with Virgin Atlantic in February this year saw a 747-400 aircraft flying from London Heathrow to Amsterdam using a blend of babassu nut and coconut oils blended with kerosene jet fuel. The project saw Boeing working with GE Aviation and Imperium Renewables as well as Virgin Atlantic.

The aviation industry had already been working to maximise fuel efficiencies in jet engines, with the greening of the fuel supply itself the next step, with liquid hydrocarbons like biofuels seen as the only option. “We can’t do plug-in hybrids,” said Mr Morgan.

Aviation is only responsible for 5% of global transport fuel demand, according to the Boeing director, but Mr Morgan suggested that a 20% proportion of biofuels within the sector’s jet fuel could be possible – which would represent 1% of global transport fuels switching away from fossil fuels.

Higher proportions of biofuels would be possible, although there are doubts about whether any more biofuels would be available without impacting on oils needed for food supplies.


Mr Morgan said Boeing was keen to link up with global standards to ensure there were no unwanted impacts from biofuel use.

He said: “We do believe that supply chain can happen in the next three to five years, so bring in the non-governmental organisations and the other public organisations, they are smart about sustainability.”

Groups including Friends of the Earth have been lobbying for aviation to be included within UK climate change targets, although the campaigners do not support biofuel use.

Boeing is now inviting airlines to sign up to a “sustainability pledge” to help further the drive towards renewable fuels, and has already signed up airlines representing 15% of jet fuel demand.

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