Energy futureDeveloping biofuel for commercial aircraft

Published 20 May 2008

The airline industry seeks to develop non-food biofuel which will offer aircraft cheaper fuel without affecting global food supplies

Airbus has teamed with Honeywell Aerospace; UOP, a Honeywell company; International Aero Engines (IAE); and JetBlue Airways to pursue development of a sustainable second-generation biofuel for use in commercial aircraft. The companies’ joint activity will help develop renewable energy technology to convert vegetation- and algae-based oils into aviation fuels and to evaluate the challenges for obtaining approval for this fuel by standards organizations. Such non-food-crop biomass fuels are known to provide a better fuel-to-emissions lifecycle than current kerosene.

JetBlue, IAE, Honeywell, and Airbus are examining the benefits of jet fuels derived from renewable biomass sources that do not compete with existing food production or valuable land and water resources. This second-generation bio-jet fuel used will be produced using technology developed by Honeywell’s UOP, a leading developer of technology and products for the refining industry. UOP has developed a process to convert biological material into renewable jet fuel that performs identically to traditional fuels while meeting the stringent performance specifications for flight. The potential environmental advantages of using second-generation bio-jet are extensive, including reduced emissions and particulates; reduced carbon footprint; improved engine cleanliness; reduced contrail formation; and overall lifecycle benefits. In addition to investigating the environmental benefits, the partnership will conduct research into whether biofuels could potentially be developed that will expand payload-range aircraft performance, reduce fuel burn, and increase engine reliability and durability - all critical cost points for aircraft operators.