Canadian forest debris (photo: Boeing)
Thu 3 Dec 2015 – Boeing, SkyNRG and the University of British Columbia (UBC) have formed a consortium with Canadian aviation industry partners to assess the potential of producing sustainable jet fuel from forest residues using thermochemical processing. The consortium will be led by UBC and Vancouver-based NORAM Engineering and Constructors, with sustainable jet fuel supplier SkyNRG acting as project partner. Also part of the venture are Air Canada, WestJet and Bombardier. A Boeing-sponsored study by UBC found that fuel from forest waste could meet 10% – about 46 million gallons, or 175 million litres – of British Columbia’s annual jet fuel demand. Boeing has also announced it will collaborate with Finnish renewable diesel producer Neste Oil to promote and accelerate jet biofuel commercialisation.
Canada’s extensive sustainably certified forests are an extensive source for mill and forest residues to make wood pellets used for electricity generation and the consortium will assess whether there is scope to produce sustainable jet fuel from the biomass.
“Canada is in a terrific position to leverage its sustainable forests to make environmental progress for its aviation industry and other transport sectors,” commented Julie Felgar, Boeing’s Managing Director of Environmental Strategy & Integration.
As well as meeting a tenth of British Columbia’s annual jet fuel demand, the UBC study found that biofuel from forest waste could also be used in ground and marine vehicles, thereby saving around 1 million tons of CO2 emissions per year on a life-cycle basis across the transportation sector.
“By utilising Canada’s strong forestry research expertise and knowledge of industry collaborators, this project will contribute significantly to understanding the viability of forest residue-sourced biofuel,” said Teresa Ehman, Director, Environmental Affairs, Air Canada.
Added Geoff Tauvette, WestJet’s Director of Fuel and Environment: “Our social responsibility mandate is to extend our culture of caring beyond our aircraft doors and we are proud to support initiatives such as these that reduce our carbon footprint through the research, development and production of aviation biofuels in Canada.”
Announced during the 2015 Canadian Bioeconomy Conference in Vancouver, the project was recently awarded funding by the Green Aviation Research and Development Network (GARDN) of Canada as part of a portfolio of investments in technologies to reduce aviation’s carbon emissions.
Meanwhile, Boeing and Neste Oil say they will work towards American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) fuel standard approval allowing the commercial use of high freeze point renewable aviation fuel by airlines. A further goal is to gain widespread acceptance for renewable aviation fuels and to progress sustainability accreditation, says Neste.
The company claims its renewable aviation fuel is produced entirely from renewable and sustainable raw materials and provides a life-cycle reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by up to 90%, with the additional benefit of being free of aromatics and sulphur, so resulting in cleaner turbine exhaust emissions. Its energy density and good thermal stability make it “an excellent blending component,” it adds.
In 2014, Boeing tested Neste’s fuel in a 15% blend with petroleum jet fuel in the Boeing ecoDemonstrator 787 test airplane. An initial flight was made with the biofuel blend in one engine, followed by several flights with the blend in both engines. Boeing reported the airplane performed as designed for conventional jet fuel.
Boeing and SkyNRG are also collaborating in a venture with South African Airways to develop a sustainable jet fuel supply chain in South Africa with an initial focus on energy tobacco grown as a feedstock. A memorandum of understanding reaffirming the collaboration was recently signed by the three partners during a Dutch trade mission to South Africa.
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