Total's La Mède biorefinery (photo:Total)
Wed 30 May 2018 – A new EU-backed project has been launched to demonstrate the first industrial-scale production and use of sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) in Europe. The four-year BIO4A initiative will also investigate the potential of reclaiming dry marginal land at risk of desertification in the Mediterranean region for cultivating the Camelina crop as biomass for producing SAF. BIO4A (Advanced Sustainable Biofuels for Aviation) has received funding from the EU’s Horizon 2020 (H2020) research and innovation programme and will be coordinated by the Italian research organisation RE-CORD, which is located at the University of Florence. Organisations from France, the Netherlands, Spain and Belgium will take part. SAF made from lipids such as used cooking oil will be produced at Total’s remodelled La Mède biorefinery in France.
In addition to Total, there are five other BIO4A members: SkyNRG, National Renewable Energy Centre of Spain (CENER), Camelina Company España, the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre and ETA-Florence Renewable Energies. The project is expected to contribute to the European Advanced Biofuels Flightpath initiative by demonstrating that SAF industrial production capacity exists in the EU. Its activities will cover all steps of the value chain, from sourcing of sustainable feedstocks to conversion into ASTM-certified SAF, and through to blending and distribution to end users at various airports across Europe.
According to the consortium, the fuel will then be distributed through standard airport infrastructure for commercial flights operated by multiple European airlines. It adds the project will analyse a series of business cases “to design effective and attractive market strategies, based on real trading experiences, for the market uptake of aviation biofuels.”
BIO4A’s research work on recovering marginal lands in the European Mediterranean (EU MED) region will aim at developing a cost-effective, long-term strategy to increase soil resilience to climate change and fertility through adopting a combination of biochar and other soil amendments. This in turn would sequester and store fixed carbon into the soil and produce a low-ILUC biofuel for aviation from Camelina, a drought-resistant non-food crop from which oil can be used for jet biofuel production. Scenarios for potential replication in the EU MED region will be modelled, together with a full chain life-cycle and sustainability analysis.
The initial production target for the La Mède biorefinery is 5,000 tonnes of HEFA (hydrotreated esters and fatty acids) sustainable aviation fuel. Formerly a petroleum refinery, Total announced in 2015 that it was to invest €200 million in transforming La Mède into a 500,000-tonnes per year biorefinery primarily to manufacture biodiesel from used oils and renewable feedstock. The biorefinery is due to open this summer and is located in France’s southern region of Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur. In January, the installation of an 8 MW solar plant at the facility was completed, which will cover around half of the biorefinery’s energy needs.
Commenting on BIO4A, the project’s coordinator at RE-CORD, Prof. David Chiaramonti, said: “Air transport is among the most critical sectors to decarbonise and, along with heavy vehicles and maritime, a priority for the European Union. BIO4A is a significant step towards clean aviation in Europe as it will bring forward the use of sustainable biojet in terms of volume and innovation. Moreover, the research on increasing the resilience of EU MED dry marginal land to climate change will open a new window for sustainable biomass production in the EU.”
Added Eline Schappers, Head of Supply and Operations at SkyNRG: “We’re proud to be part of this project and are looking forward to setting up efficient and large-scale supply chains to further integrate sustainable aviation fuel use in Europe.”
The project follows closely on the announcement of another H2020-backed European sustainable aviation fuel initiative involving SkyNRG. The REWOFUEL three-year project, led by France’s Global Bioenergies, is aiming to demonstrate technology for the conversion of forestry residues into isobutene derivatives for use in renewable jet fuel (see article).
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