Wed 21 Oct 2009 – Boeing has extended its recent flurry of aviation biofuel partnerships outside the US with an announcement that it has joined with Honeywell’s UOP and the Airports and Auxiliary Services agency (ASA), an arm of Mexico’s Ministry of Communications and Transport, to identify, research and further the development of a commercially viable market for sustainable aviation biofuels sourced in Mexico. The move comes a week or so after an agreement was reached with Abu Dhabi’s Masdar Institute of Science and Technology on a study into the potential of halophytes (see story) and reports that Boeing was in talks with Chinese technology institutions concerning the research and development of aviation biofuels in the country (see story).
Boeing revealed that it had met with more than 50 government and business representatives in Mexico during September. As a result, ASA, Boeing and UOP agreed to commission initial studies on promising biomass systems for Mexico and to formalize the joint initiative with a commitment to work via the Roundtable on Sustainable Biofuels, a worldwide multi-stakeholder initiative developing a global biofuel sustainability framework.
“This is a first-of-its-kind collaboration, involving key government, private sector and academic leaders,” said Darrin Morgan, Director of Biofuel Strategy for Boeing Commercial Airplanes. “Working together, we are assessing the potential for large-scale production of aviation fuels made from sustainable biomass systems such as halophytes, algae, jatropha, castor and other so-called next-generation biomass-for-energy systems.”
The first research target will be halophytic plants, which are said to be highly productive sources of biomass energy, with early testing results indicating they have the potential to deliver very high yields per unit of land. According to Boeing, halophytes thrive in arid land and can be irrigated with seawater waste streams from aquaculture, making them potentially suitable for biofuels development in arid ecosystems with little competing land use potential.
Mexico will be a key contributor to the Masdar assessment study and a global team will collaborate with Mexican researchers in examining viability on arid, degraded land. It is anticipated Mexico will become a pioneer in such biomass systems in conjunction with other areas of the world with similar climate and land use challenges.
“We have a holistic view of the entire supply chain and are in an ideal position to push a collaborative framework forward and otherwise serve as a catalyst for progress,” said Alejandro Rios, Director of Fuel Services for ASA, which operates 19 airports and 63 fuel stations nationwide.
Gilberto López Meyer, the General Director of ASA, said: “ASA aims to be a catalyst to jump-start the production of bio jet fuels in Mexico, enabling our country to become a leader in the development and commercialization of aviation biofuels worldwide.”
Jennifer Holmgren, UOP General Manager for Renewable Energy & Chemicals, commented: "Partnerships like this one are the key to a better understanding and, ultimately, commercial use of renewable aviation fuels. There is great potential here to identify and implement a sustainable supply chain for the production of aviation biofuels.”
Study elements will include evaluating aquaculture management and practices, assessing land use and energy requirements and identifying any potential adverse ecological or social impacts associated with using halophytes for energy development, specifically for aviation biofuels. The partners said a successful study outcome will give ASA the opportunity to better understand the potential bio-derived sources that can be produced in Mexico and converted into a sustainable aviation fuel supply. The results are expected to be available in late 2010.
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