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Jatropha pods and seeds  (Source:
Companies to evaluate a possible aviation biofuels industry in China

With so much talk about the auto industry's effort's to find alternative fuels, it's no wonder that aviation corporations are joining the search to reduce carbon emissions. Aerospace and defense giant Boeing and Chinese oil company PetroChina along with the global aviation industry and representatives of the Chinese energy sector have signed an agreement to assess the idea of establishing a sustainable aviation biofuels industry in China.

The assessment will look at socioeconomic and environmental benefits of developing alternative fuels as opposed to fossil-based fuels. In addition, it will examine every stage of sustainable aviation biofuel development such as agronomy, energy inputs and outputs, infrastructure, lifecycle's emissions analysis and government policy support.

"Boeing is actively pursuing biofuel research around the world," said David Wang, Boeing China President. "Sustainable biofuels can help reduce carbon emissions while offering the potential to lessen aviation's dependence on fossil fuels. Through these agreements, China, its aviation sector and its leadership are demonstrating tremendous drive in the quest to develop a clean, sustainable aviation fuel supply." 

The project is to support "a broader sustainable aviation biofuel agreement" between the U.S. Trade and Development Agency and China's National Energy Administration. The project aims to promote the use of aviation biofuels in China and commercialization through the U.S.-China Energy Cooperation Program (ECP), which is a public-private partnership to combat climate change and enhance energy security. Air China and PetroChina will be "leading the Chinese team" while U.S. companies taking part in the project are Honeywell's UOPUnited Technologies and AECOM.

Furthermore, Boeing and the Chinese Academy of Science's Qingdao Institute of Bioenergy and Bioprocess Technology (QIBEBT) have recently announced the building of a Joint  Laboratory for Sustainable Aviation Biofuels, dedicated to the observation of "algal growth, harvesting and processing technologies," in order to expand on their efforts to research algae-based aviation biofuels. It will be managed by Boeing Research & Technology-China and QIBEBT and will be located in Qingdao.

An "inaugural flight" using the sustainable biofuel will eventually be conducted by Boeing, Air China, PetroChina and Honeywell's UOP. PetroChina provides the biomass and Honeywell's UOP it into jet fuel. They will use the sustainable biofuel "derived from biomass grown and processed in China." 

The test flight will occur in China, but it is unknown when or exactly where the flight will take place at this time. 

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Pure 'greenwash'
By bildan on 6/2/2010 12:51:56 PM , Rating: 2
There is no way airlines can operate on biofuels - they'd need way too much of it. There's no conceivable amount of land to produce what they need.

Even if they could, they would still be transporting carbon from the surface to the stratosphere where it lingers for centuries. The inconvenient fact is jet aircraft operations have to be severely curtailed. Too bad, Boeing.

RE: Pure 'greenwash'
By Brandon Hill on 6/2/2010 1:00:49 PM , Rating: 2
Sounds like a a nice "token gesture" from Boeing, but I agree. With the large amounts of fuel these huge commercial airliners consume, I'd really like to see what kind of operation they have going on just to produce enough fuel for a single cross-country trip.

RE: Pure 'greenwash'
By MrFord on 6/2/2010 3:01:20 PM , Rating: 2
I would imagine that we're looking for a blend vs a complete replacement in day-to-day usage, e.g. à la ethanol.
If you can replace 1%, 5%, maybe even 10% of the fuel by biofuel, that's better than nothing. Like you pointed out, airlines uses an impressive quantity of Jet-A, so in cases like this, as with railroads, even a small percentage can make a dent in oil usage.

RE: Pure 'greenwash'
By bildan on 6/2/2010 4:24:50 PM , Rating: 3
My guess is they will mix in < 1% biofuel, label it "Greenjet" then spend millions advertising how 'green' they are. This is what PR types call "getting ahead of the problem".

The "problem" as they see it is entirely PR - not climate change or oil independence which they couldn't care less about.

RE: Pure 'greenwash'
By Solandri on 6/2/2010 7:07:47 PM , Rating: 2
Actually, because air travel consumes a higher amount of fuel per ton/mile traveled than other transportation, airlines are more sensitive to fluctuations in the price of aviation fuel. Alternatives like a biofuel would help dampen such fluctuations. So I can see the airlines being all for this from a purely fiscal standpoint.

RE: Pure 'greenwash'
By modus2 on 6/2/2010 10:26:16 PM , Rating: 2
This is not entirely true, modern air liners consume about 0.03L/Km per passenger or approx 75MPG, below the average car with a single occupant.

RE: Pure 'greenwash'
By roadhog1974 on 6/2/2010 11:05:51 PM , Rating: 2
air nz used a 50:50 mix for their test flight.

RE: Pure 'greenwash'
By RivuxGamma on 6/2/2010 3:21:32 PM , Rating: 2
There's no conceivable amount of land to produce what they need.

You're probably right about that. That's why there's tons of water to make algae farms.

Also, I think it's funny that "being green" means being concerned about CO2 emissions (as well as other things, but it seems to be mostly about CO2) and that biofuels produce more CO2 than normal fuels.

RE: Pure 'greenwash'
By roadhog1974 on 6/2/2010 11:07:38 PM , Rating: 2
where the carbon came from in the first place is a factor,

Low emmission pulled from 2000 metres below the surface
is far worse than high emmissions from the bio-sphere.

RE: Pure 'greenwash'
By Jeffk464 on 6/3/2010 12:03:27 AM , Rating: 2
Yes, pretty sure bio-fuels release the amount of carbon as they trapped, minus the energy used to support the system of course. Bio-fuels from feed crops are definitely a no go, but things like algae based and cellulose based bio-fuels could end up being practical.

Also on American flights you could set up a liposuction booth on the plane and just direct the fat into the fuel system. :)

RE: Pure 'greenwash'
By roadhog1974 on 6/3/2010 12:56:22 AM , Rating: 2
treadmills to run the turbines.

RE: Pure 'greenwash'
By roadhog1974 on 6/2/2010 11:04:36 PM , Rating: 2
there is no reason to believe oil from plants cannot achieve
the same energy density as oil from the ground. Which after
all was bio matter at one stage itself.

Far more of a concern is that bio fuels such as ethanol
displace food crops rather than supplementing them.

RE: Pure 'greenwash'
By FITCamaro on 6/2/2010 11:15:41 PM , Rating: 2
So you be the first to drive across country all the time instead of fly or take a boat from the US to Europe or Japan.

Course with your mindset chances are you live in Europe. But the same works both ways.

RE: Pure 'greenwash'
By roadhog1974 on 6/4/2010 1:59:13 AM , Rating: 2
High speed trains (250km/h+) provide a more than reasonable

Boston to New York would be quicker and more convienient
and more comfortable by train.

Even Chicago New York would be a toss up.

New York to LA would still be better by plane.

Can't see that ever happening in the US however.

RE: Pure 'greenwash'
By Calin on 6/3/2010 8:00:07 AM , Rating: 2
they'd need way too much of it

The airlines don't use so much fuel - people use airlines sparingly, but they use their car most of the time.
However, there's a lot of work to be done - and in the end, new engines (or changes in current engines) might be needed to use some of the cheaper biofuels.

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