ASTM approves pathway for production of microalgae-based sustainable aviation fuel developed by Japan's IHI
IHI's algae pilot facility in Thailand (photo: SMCC)
Mon 18 May 2020 – Fuel standards organisation ASTM International has approved the seventh technology pathway for the production and use of sustainable aviation fuel (SAF). Annex A7 to ASTM’s SAF specification D7566 establishes approval for a type of synthesised paraffinic kerosene derived from hydroprocessed hydrocarbons, esters and fatty acids. The standard provides that HC-HEFA-SPK fuel, which has been developed by Japan’s IHI Corporation, may be blended at up to 10% by volume with conventional fuel. The fuel pathway is the first to receive expedited review under ASTM’s fast-track review process. Meanwhile, sustainability standards body RSB has submitted to ICAO an application to be recognised as a sustainability certification scheme under the CORSIA global carbon scheme for international aviation.
Commenting on the new ASTM standard, Nancy Young, Airlines for America (A4A) VP Environmental Affairs, said: “The approval of this new pathway provides yet another avenue for the production of SAF. The more pathways there are, the more SAF that can be produced and ultimately provided to airlines for use in our aircraft.”
The new annex to D7566 was approved and published by ASTM with support from the Commercial Aviation Fuels Initiative (CAAFI), which A4A co-founded in 2006. The review benefitted from a special clearinghouse established by the FAA to help guide SAF producers through the rigorous assessment and approval process.
“A4A commends ASTM International, FAA, the airframe and engine manufacturers, the US military, jet fuel producers and our entire CAAFI team for completing the review and approval of this new SAF pathway under rigorous expedited protocols,” said Young. “Advancing the commercialisation and deployment of SAF will help the aviation industry meet its emissions reduction goals, while diversifying fuel supply and enhancing energy security.”
IHI Group has been developing a process to produce jet fuel from microalgae in partnership with the Japanese government agency New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO) and Kobe University. The project started with testing of outdoor cultivation of algae in Kagoshima Prefecture. A 10,000 square metre pilot scale test facility is now in operation in Thailand’s Saraburi Province at a site owned by Siam Cement Group. The strain of algae being cultivated is the Botryococcus braunii, which is reported to have an exceptionally high growth rate and high hydrocarbon oil content.
The climate of Thailand has been found to be perfectly suited for the culturing of algae, with its long hours of sunlight and relatively even temperatures between day and night. If production is scaled up at sites in industry-intensive parts of Thailand, the algae could use the CO2 emitted from factories for their photosynthesis.
IHI also has an ongoing project with Showa Shell Sekiyu to identify supply and integration issues of microalgae-derived SAF with petroleum based jet fuel.
The partners had hoped to use the SAF blended fuel in test flights during the now postponed Tokyo Olympics this summer, although commercialisation of the fuel is believed to be some way off.
Meanwhile, RSB said the application for recognition under CORSIA was a big step in the process to adapt its main global sustainability standard to the scheme’s mechanism. Its submission, which includes 10 other adapted procedure and standard documents, describes how alternative aviation fuel producers and supply chains can comply with both RSB and CORSIA.
“As the industry looks towards a green recovery from the global Covid-19 crisis, a robust and credible sustainability standard will be key to guide investment and strategy,” said RSB. “Our approach enables committed airlines to go above and beyond the CORSIA requirements to create genuine positive impacts and ensure that the development of alternative fuels does not lead to unintended consequences for people and planet.”