Le Bourget biofuels: Honeywell, Boeing complete transatlantic biofuels fly-ins, as Paris Air Show opens

June 20, 2011 |

Lipid fuels move from demonstration to commercialization, while alcohol-based fuels crank up. Who’s leading the way at Le Bourget? Who will take the 4-3-2-1- blast off aviation biofuels challenge?

In France, the global aviation biofuels movement is descending on the 49th Paris Air Show, which kicks off today with 340,000 attendees, 2100 exhibitors and 3,000 journalists expected to be on hand.

Exhibitors and session participants from the biofuels industry include CAAFI, the Air Transport Association, Altair Fuels, Amyris, Axens, Florida Feedstock & Technology, Gevo, Heliae, Lanzatech, Metron Aviation, Neste Oil, Sapphire Energy, SkyNRG, Solazyme, Solena, UOP Honeywell, and Verno Systems.

Airlines participating in the biofuels sessions include Air France, British Airways, Lufthansa, United, American and Qantas.

A copy of the week’s agenda can be downloaded here.

Two transatlantic firsts

To start off events, a Honeywell-operated Gulfstream G450 became the first aircraft to fly from North America to Europe with a 50/50 blend of Honeywell Green Jet Fuel and petroleum-based jet fuel, powering one of the aircraft’s Rolls-Royce engines. It was also the first business jet to be powered by a biofuel.

The biofuel was derived from camelina, grown and harvested by Sustainable Oils. The flight departed Morristown, N.J., at 9 p.m. Friday and arrived in Paris about seven hours after takeoff. The jet closely followed the route taken by Charles Lindbergh’s first flight across the Atlantic.

Boeing’s historic transatlantic four-engine flight. Boeing’s brand new 747-8 freighter will make its debut in Paris, after flying in from Seattle with each of the 747-8’s four General Electric GEnx-2B engines powered by a blend of 15 percent camelina-based biofuel mixed with 85 percent traditional kerosene fuel (Jet-A). When Boeing engineers began designing a new version of the 747, one of their goals was to improve the airplane’s environmental performance. At around the same time, a group of Boeing researchers set out to reduce aviation’s carbon footprint by supporting the development and testing of sustainable biofuels.

This summer, the 747-8 Freighter is set to enter service with a double-digit reduction in carbon emissions. Cargolux of Luxembourg is the freighter’s launch customer.

Honeywell delivers 700,000 gallons of biofuel to DARPA

Honeywell said it has now produced more than 700,000 gallons of Honeywell Green Jet Fuel from sustainable, inedible sources such as camelina, jatropha and algae for use in commercial and military testing. “In each of the 16 biofuel flights conducted to date, Honeywell Green Jet Fuel proved that it meets all specifications for flight on military and commercial platforms without any modification to the aircraft or engines,” the company crowed.

500,000 gallons of camelina aviation biofuel delivered by Sustainable Oils.

Of Honeywell’s total delivery, 500,000 gallons came from camelina-based oils produced and grown by Sustainable Oils. “Camelina jet fuel has been the most widely tested of any feedstock and has proven itself on more engine types and aircraft,” said Tom Todaro, CEO of Sustainable Oils CEO Tom Todaro. “It’s the only sustainable feedstock that is widely and commercially available today.”

Next steps

According to LanzaTech CEO Jennifer Holmgren, now that biofuels produced through hydroprocessing of lipids has received approval by ASTM, “the next biofuel expected to be certified will be fuel prepared from alcohols and in fact an alcohols to jet task force has already been established within ASTM. The efficient conversion of alcohols to aviation fuel has already been demonstrated by a number of groups.”

“Interestingly, a number of routes for converting alcohols,” noted Dr. Holmgren, “produce aromatics not just isoparaffins, which means there is a possibility of longer term certifying a fully synthetic aviation fuel, not just a blend stock.”

But Holmgren cautions against excessive optimism based on current alcohol fuel technologies. “In order to deliver cost competitive aviation fuels from alcohols, the price of the alcohol must be driven to a very low number.  The reason for this is that alcohols to jet conversion, due to density differences between the alcohol and the aviation fuel, require that 2 gallons of alcohol be converted per gallon of jet fuel produced.  Therefore – the alcohol must be produced at a low enough cost that the 2x factor on a per gallon basis doesn’t make the aviation fuel cost prohibitive.”

The 4-3-2-1 blast-off challenge

4. The aviation biofuels movement needs to lock in airline orders for $4 per gallon fuels, at scale, for the next decade.
3. Processors need to be able to demonstrate that they can reliably  produce $3 per gallon fuel, at the factory gate.
2. Growers and crushers need to demonstrate that they can make a profit, and will lock-in to scale, producing $2 per gallon oils, for the next decade.
1. One company needs to step forward and lock in first-mover advantage (via “exclusive supplier” contracting) with an at-scale project financed off the balance sheet.



More from the Paris Air Show

We expect to have at least two more major new industry announcements by mid-week, and will come back to the story for a recap at that time.

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