Boeing and Airbus set up research projects that will aim to convert China's used cooking oil to jet fuel
Thu 13 Sept 2012 – Boeing and Airbus have each announced research projects to exploit China’s vast used cooking oil reserves as a potential source of sustainable aviation biofuel for use in the region. China annually consumes around 29 million tons of cooking oil, while its aviation system uses 20 million tons of jet fuel. According to Boeing, finding ways to convert discarded used cooking oil (UCO), called ‘gutter oil’ in China, could enhance regional biofuel supplies and improve affordability. The Boeing project is the first to be undertaken by the recently opened energy conservation technology centre it has set up with Chinese aircraft manufacturer COMAC. Airbus has formed a partnership with Tsinghua University to complete a sustainability analysis of Chinese feedstocks, including UCO, and to evaluate the development of a value chain in the country.
Funded by Boeing and COMAC, which is building the new C919 jet and ARJ21 regional jet, the Beijing technology centre is working with China-based universities and research institutions to expand knowledge in areas such as sustainable aviation biofuels and air traffic management to improve commercial aviation’s efficiency and reduce carbon emissions (see article).
“Energy conservation emission reduction has currently become the hotspot and focus of the global aviation sector, and our collaboration with Boeing in this regard will have profound impacts in China as well as the world,” said Shi Jianzhong, Vice President of COMAC.
The centre’s first project aims to identify contaminants in UCO and processes that may treat and clean it for use as jet fuel.
“We are excited about opportunities to partner with world-class research capabilities in China in ways that will accelerate the global push for renewable jet fuels and support commercial aviation’s growth while reducing its environmental footprint,” said Dong Yang Wu, Vice President of Boeing Research & Technology China.
The Airbus partnership with Tsinghua University is aiming to speed up the commercialisation of aviation biofuels in China and in the first phase they will assess suitable feedstocks that comply with economic, ecological and social sustainability criteria. The sustainability analysis is to be managed by Airbus in collaboration with the university and other European institutions, with a second phase narrowing down the most promising solutions. In addition to UCO, feedstocks likely to be selected include algae.
The first results are due to be analysed during coming months and by the beginning of 2013 a full sustainability analysis should have been completed. From 2013 onwards, the partners will look at scaling up the alternative fuel production process to achieve sustainable quantities of commercial aviation biofuel.
“We believe the research will have positive effects on energy conservation, emissions reduction and climate change addressing the Chinese aviation sector,” said the project’s manager, Professor Zhang Xiliang, Director of Tsinghua University’s Institute of Energy, Environment and Economy.
China’s fast-growing aviation market is forecasted by the Civil Aviation Administration of China to see an increase in passenger traffic from around 300 million this year to 1.5 billion in 2030. Boeing recently projected the country’s airlines will need 5,260 new aircraft by 2031 to become the second-largest commercial airliner market, with 75% of the demand being for growth instead of replacement. Airbus says Asia Pacific will account for 35% of all new aircraft deliveries and in value terms China will outstrip the US to become the world’s single biggest market.