Qatar Airways-led consortium plans development of economically viable sustainable jet biofuel production
Representatives from Qatari and international companies announce jet biofuel initiative
Wed 13 Jan 2010 – Qatar Airways, Qatar Science & Technology Park and Qatar Petroleum have reached an agreement to establish the Qatar Advanced Biofuel Platform (QABP) with the aim of developing a detailed engineering and implementation plan for the production and supply of sustainable biomass-to-liquid (BTL) jet biofuel. With the support of Airbus, QABP will also come up with a biofuel investment strategy, an advanced technology development programme and conduct ongoing market and strategic analysis. The consortium will be structured so that further international partners can join and the initiative expanded globally to include additional projects, technologies and investment.
The QABP initiative follows a seven-month sustainable BTL jet fuel feasibility study carried out by Qatar Airways, Qatar Science & Technology Park and Verno Systems, a US biofuels industry advisory and management services company. The study looked at all available biofeed stocks that would not affect the food or fresh water supply chain, and also carried out a viability analysis of existing and future production technologies.
The consortium says it will take a “portfolio approach” to the development of advanced biofuels across feedstocks, technologies and geographies in order to meet its short, medium and long term goals. Specific feedstocks have been identified – although so far undisclosed – which could be developed and processed with the aim of providing access to BTL jet fuel for use by Qatar Airways.
Last October, the airline carried out the first commercial flight using a gas-to-liquid (GTL) blended jet fuel. In November 2007, Qatar Airways set up another industry consortium to develop alternative synthetic jet fuels that exploited Qatar’s vast natural gas reserves (see story).
“Building on the experience and success of the GTL consortium, we now move to the next phase of alternative fuels while continuing to develop GTL further,” said Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker, adding: “While others talk, we take action.”
He said it was the aim of his airline and its partners to make Qatar one of the global leaders for advanced biofuels.
“Qatar Airways already has one of the lowest carbon footprints in the industry due to its investment of billions of US dollars in a state-of-the-art aircraft fleet,” he maintained. “By entering into the production and supply of biojet fuels, we will be able to get closer and closer to the much talked about [aviation industry] carbon-neutral growth.”
Tom Enders, President and CEO of Airbus, commented: “Following along the Airbus Alternative Fuels Roadmap, by launching this new initiative with Qatar Airways, we have taken yet another important step to reach carbon-neutral growth in the aviation sector by 2020. This industry-wide cooperation will achieve real progress in finding sustainable fuel alternatives.”
Dr Tidu Maini, Chairman of Qatar Science & Technology Park (QSTP), added: “The commitment of Qatar Airways and its partners to ensure that new aviation fuel technology is effectively applied is a great example of the kind of research being pioneered at QSTP through its partners. Research activities on alternative and environmentally-friendly fuels like BTL will establish QSTP as a leading international hub for the application of new platform technologies. This is a great example of an effective multi-partner collaborative research and development programme which is already producing successful outcomes.”
State-owned Qatar Petroleum is responsible for all phases of the oil and gas industry in the emirate, including exploration, production and supply. Qatar Petroleum’s Director of Oil & Gas Ventures, Saad Sherida Al-Kaabi, said his organization was committed to supplying clean fuels to the world.
“We are currently the world’s largest supplier of LNG and GTL products and our participation in this project demonstrates our eagerness to further investigate the development of new clean fuels,” he said.
With certification for the commercial use of BTL-blended jet fuels expected during this coming year, the next big hurdle for sustainable jet biofuels to overcome is the scaling up of production on an economically viable basis. The new Qatar consortium, following hard on the heels of last month’s pledge by a number of major airlines to purchase future alternative fuels to be produced by two US companies (see story), shows intent by the aviation industry to stimulate the process and encourage would-be producers and suppliers.