Airbus forms partnership to develop sustainable second-generation commercial aviation biofuels
JetBlue Airways IAE V2500-powered Airbus A320 (photo: IAE)
Fri 16 May 2008 – Airbus has teamed with engine manufacturer International Aero Engines, Honeywell Aerospace, UOP and US low-cost airline JetBlue Airways to pursue development in second-generation biofuels. Airbus believes such fuels could provide up to 30 percent of all jet fuel by 2030.
The companies will look to develop renewable energy technology to convert vegetation- and algae-based oils into aviation fuels and “to evaluate the challenges for obtaining approval for this fuel by standards organizations”. Airbus believes such non-food crop biomass fuels that do not compete with existing food production or valuable land and water resources can provide a better fuel-to-emissions lifecycle than current kerosene.
The biojet fuel will be produced using technology developed by UOP, a Honeywell Company, which develops technology and products for the refining industry.
UOP has already developed process technology to convert natural oils and greases to military jet fuel as part of a project funded by the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). The process technology produces ‘green’ jet fuel that is a drop-in replacement for traditional kerosene-based jet fuel which the company says meets all the critical performance specifications for flight. UOP claims this technology will also be viable for use in the production of jet fuel for commercial jets. The company is also developing a range of biofuels technologies in addition to jet fuel and has already commercialized Ecofining process technology to produce green diesel from biofeedstocks.
“Biofuels hold tremendous potential to meet growing fuel demand while reducing lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions,” said Jennifer Holmgren, Director of the Renewable Energy and Chemicals business for UOP. “This partnership brings together a range of aviation and process technology expertise to study and verify the best path toward sustainable use of biofuels in aviation.”
Apart from reduced CO2 emissions and particulates, aviation biofuels have other potential benefits, says Airbus, including reductions in contrail formations, improved engine cleanliness and overall lifecycle benefits. In addition, the partnership will conduct research into whether biofuels have the potential to expand payload-range aircraft performance, reduce fuel burn and increase engine reliability.
“Over the last 40 years, aviation has reduced fuel burn – and therefore CO2 emissions – by 70%, but more needs to be done,” said Sebastien Remy, Head of Alternative Fuels Research Programs for Airbus. “Millions of barrels of kerosene are used each day for aircraft fuel, and worldwide demand is growing. In order to replace a significant portion of that jet fuel with biojet, we need to find something that has much greater yield than the current biomass sources available.”
Honeywell Aerospace provides engine technology expertise to Airbus, including a range of auxiliary power units. “Honeywell is working alongside key customers to find innovative solutions to meet passenger and operator demands for higher standards in reducing greenhouse gas emissions,” said Greg Albert, Honeywell Aerospace Vice President for Airbus programmes. “We believe this joint effort, along with Honeywell’s advanced technology solutions in Air Traffic Management, have the potential to significantly decrease pollutants.”
A spokesman for JetBlue Airways said: “Our role in this project will be to take all in-service operational aspects into consideration. We will participate in much of the ground- and flight-testing of the biofuel, once all preliminary tests have been conducted with satisfactory results.
“Our involvement in this partnership is part of a comprehensive environmental initiative we’ll be announcing next week.”
JetBlue’s President and COO, Russ Chew, commented: “This has the potential to benefit every world citizen beyond those involved in our business. Each of our companies has the social responsibility to work towards developing a cleaner way to do business, and this effort we are undertaking with Airbus, Honeywell and IAE is a major stepping stone towards further reducing our environmental impact.”
Based on its current order programme, the airline expects to be running a fleet of 202 IAE V2500 engine-powered Airbus A320s by 2012.