China’s aviation regulator opens the way for commercial use of aviation biofuel as it awards first licence to Sinopec
Wed 19 Feb 2014 – The Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) has awarded a licence to the country’s leading oil refiner Sinopec that permits use of its ‘No. 1 Aviation Biofuel’ in commercial operations. This is the first licence to be awarded and follows two years of testing by CAAC’s Aircraft Airworthiness Certification Department. Last April, China Eastern Airlines carried out a test flight of an Airbus A320 from Shanghai Hongqiao Airport using conventional jet fuel blended with biofuel made up of palm oil and used cooking oil that had been developed, produced and refined by Sinopec (see article). Awarding the Chinese Technical Standard Order Authorization (CTSOA), CAAC said the fuel met international fuel certification standards and the process had involved the participation of US and European regulatory authorities. It added the development of alternative clean energy was an important measure in promoting the sustainable development of civil aviation in the country and achieving emissions reduction targets.
"Aviation biofuel is one of the major trends in global aviation," Xu Chaoqun, Deputy Director of CAAC’s Aircraft Airworthiness Certification Department, told China's state news agency, Xinhua. "With our research on aviation biofuel, we have built a set of technological standards, and will have a bigger say in international carbon emissions reduction."
The CAAC said it planned to set up a new set of management practices to guide and improve the development and application of alternative aviation fuels. It also aims to encourage research into a range of biomass to ensure diversification of raw materials and a gradual reduction in production costs.
"The most important thing now is to diversify biofuel sources and upgrade technology," said Xu.
Xu Hui, Deputy Director of Sinopec's Science and Technology Department, warned that production costs of aviation biofuel were two to three times those of its fossil fuel equivalent. He said around three tonnes of used cooking oil were needed to generate one tonne of biofuel and collecting and refining the oil was expensive. He suggested refiners and airlines should split the cost, with the final price determined by the market based on "emissions-cutting efforts and an application scale".
China is the world's largest oil importer, with 58.1% of supply last year coming in from outside the country. With an annual consumption of aviation fuel of nearly 20 million tonnes, it is second only to the United States, and demand is estimated to be expanding by 10% every year, while the global average is less than 5%. By contrast, points out Xinhua, the country has abundant biofuel refining resources with vast areas of oil-rich plants and huge quantities - estimated at 28 million tonnes a year - of used cooking oil.