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cellulosic biomass, such as corn stovers, sugar cane
rubbish, lignite (brown coal), grasses and farm waste,
can be used. In late 2011, the company opened a
second-generation commercialisation demonstration
plant following a A$2.3 million Australian Federal
Government biofuels grant.
Virgin Australia is exploring the potential of CAT-
HTR through testing with the aim of supporting its
certification and reaching a commercial off-take
agreement. Air New Zealand is also exploring the
potential of the technology to produce sustainable
aviation biofuel in New Zealand.
Virgin Australia is also working with Renewable
Oil Corp, Dynamotive Energy Systems, GE, Airbus
and research organisation the Future Farm Industries
Co-Operative Research Centre on a fast pyrolysis
technology developed by Canadian company
Dynamotive that can process mallee eucalypt trees that
can be grown sustainably in many parts of Australia.
The partners plan to establish a full-scale commercial
plant in Western Australia as early as 2014.
Meanwhile, Virgin Atlantic has partnered New
Zealand company LanzaTech, Swedish Biofuels and
Boeing on a biological process of carbon capture
and re-use involving proprietary biological microbes
that can use a variety of waste gases as a nutrient
source, including waste gases from industry, which
would otherwise be flared as carbon dioxide.
"This technology will enable airlines to dramatically
reduce their carbon footprint by re-using gases that
would otherwise have been emitted directly into the
atmosphere. It promotes sustainable industrial growth,
as the process enables manufacturing plants to
recycle their waste carbon emissions," says Dr Jennifer
Holmgren, chief executive officer of LanzaTech. The
New Zealand company has raised more than US$100
million towards its commercialisation.
Virgin Atlantic aims to use the fuel on flights from
Shanghai and Delhi to London, with LanzaTech
establishing production facilities in China and India.
LanzaTech has a pilot facility in New Zealand, has
launched a demonstration facility in Shanghai that uses
gases from a steel mill for ethanol production and will
move to full commercial operations in China in 2013.
China has become the focus for a lot of biofuel
activities, with aircraft manufacturers Airbus and
Boeing both forming a number of partnerships with
companies and research organisations in the country.
In November, for example, Airbus and parent
EADS signed a memorandum of understanding
with Chinese bio-energy company ENN to explore
solutions for alternative aviation fuels, including
technical qualification of aviation fuels based on
algae oil and the promotion of their use in China.
ENN has already developed a production plant for
algae-based oil which is capable of producing more
than 10 tons of oil per annum. The second phase
will include test flights in 2013 in China using algae
oil produced by ENN. In 2013 the partners will also
look at scaling up the production process to achieve
sustainable quantities of aviation fuel, says EADS.
Airbus has previously worked with academic
institution Tsinghua University on a sustainability
analysis of Chinese feedstocks, including used
cooking oil and algae. It is also working with Chinese
energy company China Petroleum and Chemical
Corporation (Sinopec) on developing and promoting
renewable aviation fuel production for regular
commercial use in China. Sinopec is producing biojet
fuel in a new refinery near Shanghai. The refinery has
produced biofuel from animal fats and vegetable oils
and has an annual capacity of 6,000 tonnes. Sinopec
currently supplies three-quarters of the domestic
Chinese aviation market with fuel.
The latest agreement is part of Airbus' efforts to
create regional sustainable alternative fuel "value
chains" connecting farmers, refiners and the end user
(airlines), with the aim of having one in every continent.
Airbus is already part of such value chains in Latin
America, Australia, Europe and the Middle East.
Boeing, meanwhile, has launched a project through
its recently formed technology centre set up in
partnership with Commercial Aircraft Corp of China
(COMAC) looking at ways to convert waste cooking
oil to aviation fuel. Hanzhou Energy Engineering
and Technology, which develops alternative energy
technologies, aims to identify the contaminants in
waste cooking oil -- known as "gutter oil" in China
-- and processes that could clean it to make jet fuel.
China annually consumes approximately 29 million
tons of cooking oil while its aviation system uses 20
million tons of jet fuel, according to Boeing.
"China is the world's fastest-growing aviation
market and the biggest consumer of cooking oil.
There's great potential for converting the waste
cooking oil into sustainable aviation fuel," says Qin
Fuguang, president of COMAC's Beijing Aeronautical
Science and Technology Research Institute.
China conducted its first sustainable biofuel flight in
late 2011, when an Air China 747-400 using a blend
of conventional fuel and biofuel from Chinese-grown
jatropha sourced and refined by PetroChina and
Honeywell's UOP made a demonstration flight from
Beijing. PetroChina aims to have a refinery producing
60,000 tonnes per annum of biofuel by 2014.
The Asia-Pacific region is playing a major role in
the development of a viable sustainable aviation fuels
industry, but more is needed. "Asian governments and
industry have a fantastic opportunity to take advantage
of sustainable aviation biofuels", says ATAG's Steele.
"Asia-Pacific is one of the fastest-growing aviation
regions in the world and became the largest aviation
market in 2009. The region will be using the mobility
and connectivity that air travel brings to help drive
economic growth. That growth can be achieved in a
more sustainable way if Asian airlines take advantage
of reducing their carbon footprint by up to 80 per cent
using biofuels," he adds.
Governments in the region should be encouraging
the development of a home-grown sustainable jet
fuel industry, using algae and municipal waste, for
example, he says. "The mega cities of Asia could
potentially supply millions of tonnes of organic waste
material to convert into aviation biofuels," Steele
suggests. He adds: "We are urging governments to
support our efforts through practical policy measures
and have suggested some easy steps to bring about
faster deployment of aviation biofuels: foster research
into new feedstock sources and refining processes;
de-risk public and private investments in aviation
biofuels; provide incentives for airlines to use biofuels
from an early stage; encourage stakeholders to
commit to robust international sustainability criteria;
understand local green growth opportunities; and
establish conditions encompassing all parts of the
"China is the world's fastest-growing aviation market and the biggest consumer
of cooking oil. There's great potential for converting the waste cooking oil into
sustainable aviation fuel," says Qin Fuguang, president of COMAC's Beijing
Aeronautical Science and Technology Research Institute.
ICAO secretary general Raymond Benjamin flew from Montreal to Rio de
Janeiro on a series of flights powered by sustainable alternative fuels.
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