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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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RE: Pure 'greenwash'
By Brandon Hill (blog) 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.

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