The Aviation renewable fuels imperative

May 25, 2015 |

WBLF-1“For sure, we see this period as the most difficult, the most critical.”

From remarks by Antonio De Palmas — president, Boeing Italy, at the World Bioenergy Leadership Forum

In aviation we have changing demographics, and climate urgency. Climate change and pollution is a big challenge for us. At the saem time, aviation is expanding and changing. Aviation is 2% of all 2010 CO2e emissions, expected to grow to 3.5% by 2030. We cannot accept the status quo, because if we don’t do something to contain our emissions, we will be trapped – regulation will stop our growth. So, we need to be proactive.

At the same time, the global middle class is expanding. There are 1.9 billion in what can be described as the middle class today. That number will rise to 5 billion in 2030; 50% of those people live today EU and NAM, but growth will come almost exclusively in Asia-Pacific. For example, 73% of revenue passenger miles in 1993 were in the EU and NAM, dropping to 50% in 2013, and expected to fall to 38% by 2033.

The Boeing strategy

There are three components. More efficient airplanes, more efficient flights, and sustainable fuels. Aviation needs drop-in fuels that can be blended directly with petroleum, that meet or exceed performance standards, and require no change to airplane engines and fueling infrastructure, are sustainable, and cost competitive.

Fuels that meet those requirements will find strong demand from airlines, so long as they meet strict sustainability criteria as measured by NGOs. These will power sustainable growth and economic development.

Results to date

The fuels are technically viable, three types are approved, and more than 1600 flights have been completed. There is airline support, and military interest.

Here are the challenges. Sufficient supply, the small refinery capacity, the current price premium, and current limits on sustainable feedstock.

Which will come first – biobased supply or lower price? We have multiple global activities such as SAFUG, the joint center with Embraer, including GOL flights.  We do RFS advocacy, and work on the Midwest Biofuels Initiative, the Pacific Northwest Roadmap, the UAE halophyte pilot, the South African Airways SkyNRG collaboration, the Australia Biofuels Roadmap, the Malaysia small-hold farm initiative, the Japan roadmap, the Gutter oil collaboration with COMAG in China, a Boeing research collaboration, test flight by Air China, Hainan Airlines and LanzaTech, the BIOjet initiative with Etihad in Abu Dhabi, and the Nordic Initiative for Sustainable Aviation

We are particularly optimistic about 15% blends of green diesel with conventional petroleum in the near term — a product already produced affordable at scale, at a price that approaches Jet . There is 800 million gallons per year in  production capacity, and it reduces CO2 by 50-90% according to Neste Oil. It is chemically similar to HEFA aviation biofuels approved in 2011.

For sure, we see this period as the most difficult, the most critical. After this period, things will become easier, clearer.

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Category: Thought Leadership

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