The Potential Role of Biofuels in Commercial Air Transport - BioJetFuel

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This report covers the main issues affecting the utilization of biofuels (biojetfuel) in commercial aviation, briefly summarized here. Environmental issues have become a major driver within the commercial airline industry. Indeed the International Air Transport Association (IATA), is committed to achieve carbon neutral growth by 2020 and 50% reduction by 2050. A major step has also been the introduction of the EU ETS, though this is being contested by various airlines, notably American and Chinese. Policy and legislative issues are also at the core of biofuels use in the commercial airline industry as cost and speed of introduction are largely dependent on differing governmental policies such as subsidies, legislation, etc.

This report has also looked at the technological options. Given the nature of the high quality drop-in fuels required in aviation, conversion technologies are rather limited, but are not the main obstacle. The most realistic options are Fisher-Tropsch (FT), and hydrogenated ester and fatty acids (HEFA).

The availability of feedstock in large and sustainable scale is the key to the success or failure of the use of biojetfuel, at least in any significant global scale. Of the various feedstock assessed, at the time of writing, the most economic option is edible oils e.g. palm and soybean oil. However, given the implications with food security, it is our view that this alternative should be disregarded. Consequently, the report has focused on non-edible oils (algae, jatropha, camelina sativa, salicornia bigelivii- see Table 4). These oily crops offer considerable potential, but on a longer term. Another emerging alternative is the use of waste of which various promising examples are examined, though it is too early to say if this option will be an economically and technical feasible alternative.

IEA Bioenergy Task 40
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