EU to contribute 10 million euros towards ITAKA supply chain project to develop European sustainable aviation fuels
Camelina is a high-energy oilseed crop (photo: Airbus)
Wed 19 Dec 2012 – Under its 7th Framework R&D Framework programme, the EU has granted nearly 10 million euros ($13m) to the ITAKA (Initiative Towards sustAinable Kerosene for Aviation) project, which aims to establish a European supply chain to produce sustainable aviation fuels primarily from oils from Spanish-grown camelina and also used cooking oil. Described as the first of its kind collaborative project in the EU, Finnish renewable fuel company Neste Oil will produce 4,000 tonnes of sustainable drop-in fuel to allow testing in existing logistic systems and in normal flight operations in the EU. The three-year project will likely cost over 17 million euros and will be coordinated by Spain’s aeronautical and air navigation agency SENASA. Other members of the consortium include Airbus, EADS IW, Embraer, SkyNRG, Camelina Company España, BIOTEHGEN, CLH, EPFL, MMU and RE-CORD. Biofuel sustainability will be assessed against the EU-approved RSB EU RED standard.
ITAKA will contribute to the goal of the ‘European Advanced Biofuels Flight path’ initiative to produce 2 million tonnes of renewable jet fuel for annual use by airlines by 2020. The ITAKA project will link supply and demand by establishing a supply chain involving feedstock grower, biofuel producer, distributor and the airline final user.
Sustainability, competitiveness and technology assessments will be carried out by research and academic institutions such as EADS IW France, EPFL in Switzerland and the UK’s Manchester Metropolitan Universtity, which will study the economic, social and regulatory implications of large-scale use. The generated knowledge will aim to identify and address barriers to innovation and commercial deployment.
Camelina oil will be targeted as the best sustainable feedstock that can be produced timely and in sufficient quantities within Europe. The high-energy oilseed crop has been grown for many centuries in parts of Eastern Europe and does not compete with food crops. Two of the ITAKA consortium members, Airbus and BIOTEHGEN, are already collaborating on a camelina value chain project in Romania with TAROM airline (see article). Used cooking oil will be considered by ITAKA as an alternative feedstock.
Neste’s NExBTL renewable fuel, together with the camelina oil used to produce it, will be certified in accordance with the approved RSB EU RED certification system. The RSB (Roundtable on Sustainable Biofuels) standard was one of seven voluntary schemes approved by the European Commission in July 2011. In order to receive government support or count towards mandatory national renewable energy targets, biofuels used in the EU (whether locally produced or imported) have to comply with sustainability criteria involving the entire production and supply chain. The renewable jet fuel produced will be required to meet a minimum 60% GHG saving compared to its fossil equivalent Jet-A1. In addition, the production and use of camelina as a biofuel feedstock will also be assessed with regard to its contribution to food and feed markets and its potential impact on direct and Indirect Land Use Change (ILUC). To this end, the sustainability of biofuels needs to be checked by EU member states or through voluntary schemes, such as RSB EU RED, which have been approved by the Commission.
Once produced, the Neste renewable fuel will be blended 50/50 with conventional fossil kerosene that will then be distributed to European airlines for use on their commercial flights. The company has already supplied its jet biofuel to Lufthansa for commercial service. A six-month trial that ended earlier this year involved 1,187 flights between Frankfurt and Hamburg, as well as a transatlantic flight between Frankfurt and Washington DC, leading to a reduction of over 1,500 tonnes of CO2. Neste says its fuel is ideally suited to commercial use and contributed to a 1% approximate reduction in fuel consumption on the Lufthansa flights.
The company says that rather gaining commercially from ITAKA, the consortium members will focus on building up common research and test data on the use of the renewable fuel in areas such as logistics and practical issues related to fuelling associated with scheduled flights in Europe.
The Commission says ITAKA has been put together with the aim of engaging key stakeholders and to make a first significant step in the establishment of a European network for sustainable aviation fuel.