(photo: Air Canada)
Tue 23 July 2013 – Matching potential alternative aviation fuel producers and suppliers together with willing airline industry buyers was discussed at length during a conference ran in conjunction with the Alternative Aviation Fuels Pavilion at last month’s Paris Air Show. To help producers understand the needs of prospective airline clients, the Commercial Aviation Alternative Fuels Initiative (CAAFI) released a guidance document at the event. Its aim is to communicate basic information and technical requirements, including a generalised process and key steps when entering into purchase agreements. It also advises producers on how to become involved with the aviation community, the testing and environmental evaluations required to show the fuel’s suitability for aviation use, and how best to facilitate certification for a new fuel. Coordinating and facilitating cooperation between stakeholders has also become a key activity in the environmental efforts of ICAO, which participated in Paris.
For an interested alternative jet fuel supplier, CAAFI says it is a first point of entry since it is willing and able to help make the necessary introductions for producers to engage with airlines and other end users. However, when and how to engage depends to a great extent on how far a given producer is along the commercialisation curve, say the authors of the report, Dr Bruno Miller of Metron Aviation and John Heimlich of trade association Airlines for America (A4A).
To help producers, CAAFI has developed a number of inter-relational ‘readiness’ tools to create a common language and understanding of the development stage of production pathways.
Looking for a way to classify and track progress on research, certification and demonstration activities, CAAFI’s R&D and certification teams have developed a Fuel Readiness Level (FRL) tool. The tool provides a nine-level guidance roadmap towards fuel technical development and certification, with the first level (FRL1) observing and reporting basic principles of the feedstock and process. Once FRL3 has been reached – the proof of concept stage – the producer is expected to provide a laboratory scale fuel sample of 500 ml for analysis, initial environmental assessment and validation of basic fuel properties.
By FRL6, producers must be in a position to supply between 80 and 225,000 gallons of fuel for a full-scale technical evaluation involving rig and engine testing. Working through international fuel standards approval and commercial validation, the top level (FRL9) is completed once full production capability from sustainable feedstocks has been established. A FRL Exit Criteria checklist details what is performed at each FRL level.
A companion Feedstock Readiness Level (FSRL) tool has also been developed, in collaboration with the US Department of Agriculture, to track the development and availability of the raw materials or feedstocks required to make alternative jet fuels. The four FSRL tool components – Production; Market; Policy & Programme Support and Regulatory Compliance; and Linkage to Conversion Process – are designed to work in parallel with the FRL tool components, including the readiness of the biofuel conversion process technology that will be utilised, as well as the fuel testing and certification readiness.
This approach, says CAAFI, provides an integrated way to demonstrate the mutual requirements of feedstocks and conversion technologies needed to bring advanced biofuels into commercial production and use.
Before airlines contemplate the purchase of alternative jet fuel, the report’s authors stipulate a number of requirements that suppliers must meet, including:
- Fuel certification compliance;
- Drop-in compatibility;
- Reliability of supply and on-time delivery;
- Environmental benefit to include reduced life-cycle GHG emissions and local air quality emissions compared to traditional jet fuels; and
- Economic viability including price competitiveness and flexibility in the pricing mechanism.
For their part, and provided their competitiveness is not negatively affected, airlines are open to creative ideas and willing to help commercialise alternative jet fuels, say the authors. For example, although most term contracts for conventional jet fuel range from 12 to 24 months, airlines are willing to consider long-term offtake agreements of three years or more, up to a maximum of 10 years. Given that most processes for producing alternative jet fuel also generate other products depending on market conditions, such as ground transportation alternative fuels, airlines may also consider taking the entire production slate and use such fuels for surface vehicles and ground support equipment.
Airlines are also open to considering joint purchases as a group and also becoming upstream investors in alternative fuel projects where this may help a producer reach meaningful milestones and accelerate commercialisation. The industry can also support policy advocacy that would help level the playing field for alternative fuels with respect to conventional fuel.
A sample ‘term sheet’ is provided in the document with general statements and specific data elements that airlines would expect to be included in any prospective purchase agreement.
Rich Altman, CAAFI’s Executive Director Emeritus, said the guidance had been well-received at the Paris event and the mood towards the deployment of sustainable aviation biofuels was now “definitely upbeat”. He added: “The timing of its release and the content of the CAAFI business team guidance document is just right to spur additional deployment efforts.”
A new guidance document covering sustainability is to be published very shortly on the CAAFI website. It has been put together by CAAFI’s environmental team led by Nancy Young of A4A and Jim Hileman of the FAA, with input from Dr Kristin Lewis of the US Department of Transport.
At a global level, the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) is also facilitating efforts to bring together the aviation industry and the many stakeholders involved in the sustainable alternative jet fuel supply chain. The UN agency is helping to facilitate information exchange on financing and incentives, assist in the establishment of a regulatory framework to ensure sufficient quantities of sustainable alternative fuels are made available to aviation, and smooth the development of standardised definitions, methodologies and processes.
In May, the ICAO SUSTAF Experts Group, which is coordinated by the ICAO Secretariat’s Philippe Novelli, published a 17-page report entitled ‘The Challenges for the Development and Deployment of Sustainable Alternative Fuels in Aviation’.
ICAO is also supporting a platform for access to alternative jet fuel research, roadmaps and programmes. On its public website, ICAO has set up a comprehensive database of news and activities, initiatives and projects, documentation and links.
“Aviation alternative fuels hold tremendous promise to make our skies cleaner and the world’s aircraft more economical to operate,” said ICAO Environment Chief Jane Hupe in a keynote address at the opening of the Alternative Aviation Fuels Pavilion in Paris. “It’s important that ICAO continues to help coordinate the global cooperation between private and public sector bodies that will help to continue to drive momentum in this field.”
CAAFI – ‘Guidance for Selling Alternative Fuels to Airlines’ (pdf)
ICAO Global Framework for Aviation Alternative Fuels
ICAO SUSTAF Experts Group May 2013 Report (pdf)
Marking the opening of the AAF Pavilion in Paris were (L-R) Cesar Velarde (Bioqueroseno), Paul Steele (ATAG/ IATA), Brian Hickey (AISAF), Paul Schwach (French DGAC), Chandra Brown (US Dept. of Commerce), Jane Hupe (ICAO), Chems Chkioua (French DGAC), Richard Altman (CAAFI) and Lukas Rohleder (Aireg).
ICAO’s participation in Paris coincided with the first anniversary of its Rio+20 sustainable alternative fuels initiative in 2012 that saw ICAO Secretary General Raymond Benjamin undertake a series of four scheduled flights between Montreal and Rio de Janeiro powered by alternative jet fuels. Participants in the project came together in Paris to commemorate the flights. Pictured below L-R are Jeffrey Brown (Porter Airlines), Hélène Gagnon (Bombardier), Brice Lalonde (UN Global Compact), Jane Hupe (ICAO), Teresa Ehman (Air Canada), Andrea Debbane (Airbus), Henk de Graauw (SkyNRG) and Eduardo Rodrigues Calderon (GOL).
This article was updated 24 July 2013
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