Demonstration flight marks launch of new Abu Dhabi initiative to develop a UAE sustainable aviation biofuel industry
Etihad Boeing 777 being fuelled for demonstration flight
Mon 20 Jan 2014 – A new initiative, BIOjet Abu Dhabi, has been launched to set up a sustainable aviation biofuel supply chain in the United Arab Emirates. The five partners collaborating in the venture – Etihad Airways, Boeing, Takreer, Total and the Masdar Institute of Science and Technology – will engage a broad range of stakeholders to develop a framework for the supply chain. The initiative will focus on research and development together with investments in feedstock production and refining capability in the UAE and globally. To mark the launch, Etihad undertook a 45-minute demonstration flight of a Boeing 777 with one engine powered by a locally-blended jet fuel made up of 10 per cent plant-derived biofuel supplied by Total/Amyris and conventional jet kerosene.
Etihad said it was a strong advocate of the industry position that biofuel development is the most viable way towards decarbonising the aviation industry, whilst recognising that any alternative fuel needs to be less harmful on the environment than traditional fossil fuel and show a high level of sustainability.
“In collaboration with our key partners, our goal is to support and help drive the commercialisation of sustainable aviation fuel in Abu Dhabi, the region and also globally,” said Etihad Airways CEO James Hogan. “We have made some important first steps in this process and our continued focus will be to develop further initiatives such as this which will facilitate the availability of sustainable aviation biofuels for Etihad Airways in the coming years.”
The airline said it would also help to ensure that aviation was not disadvantaged over other potential consumers of biofuel in Abu Dhabi and would ensure its engagement in biofuel initiatives conformed to the strict pledge and principles of the Sustainable Aviation Fuel Users Group (SAFUG),
Following approval from the UAE General Civil Aviation Authority, the flight on Saturday (Jan 18) was in Abu Dhabi airspace for the round trip between Abu Dhabi International Airport and Al Ain. The flight used around 600 litres of a biofuel produced from plant sugars through a technology currently in the process of acquiring ASTM certification for commercial airline use. Etihad said the flight would help support the approval process for this fuel production pathway.
Amyris, which has already supplied fuel for two other demonstration flights, and Total recently announced a 50-50 joint venture to develop an alternative aviation jet fuel made with a sustainably-sourced hydrocarbon using Amyris’s proprietary biotechnology platform.
Although this was the second time an Etihad Boeing 777 had flown using sustainable fuel – a delivery flight from Boeing in 2012 used a blend made up from used cooking oil – the flight was the first time a UAE-produced biokerosene had been used. The biofuel was partially converted from biomass by Total and then refined into jet fuel and quality tested by Takreer, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Abu Dhabi National Oil Co (ADNOC), which produces a range of fuels including Jet-A1.
“We support the concept of using biofuel as a sustainable aviation fuel for a cleaner future in line with ADNOC’s sustainability policy,” said Jasem Ali Al Sayegh, CEO of Takreer. “We see this strategy as complementary to our future plans in meeting the rapid growth in demand for jet fuel in the country and the region in view of the expansion of the operations of airlines here.”
Boeing and Etihad Airways are among the founding partners of the Sustainable Bioenergy Research Consortium, hosted by the Masdar Institute in Abu Dhabi. The consortium has been researching and developing salt-tolerant plants that would be raw material for the same refining processes used to produce renewable fuel for the Etihad Airways flight.
“We remain focused on identifying commercially viable means for the production of sustainable aviation fuel and welcome the new initiative that will pave the way for faster adoption of such fuel by the industry,” said Dr Fred Moavenzadeh, President of Masdar Institute. “With our expertise, we will continue our contribution towards offering clean energy solutions for the benefit of all stakeholders.”
The flight and BIOjet announcement lead into Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week and the World Future Energy Summit. These activities and Masdar Institute’s aviation biofuel research are aligned with the Abu Dhabi Economic Vision 2030, which seeks to develop sustainable energy sources to diversify the UAE economy and increase workforce opportunities for Emiratis.