Biofuel for Aviation
The Bob Pritchard Column
Globally, a raft of carriers including Qantas, Cathay Pacific, United, Southwest, jet Blue and Lufthansa have signed deals to purchase alternative jet fuels. The secretariat of the International Civil Aviation Organization has also proposed ambitious new targets for biofuel use in aircraft. Qantas will buy biofuel from US company SG Preston for use on the long haul Los Angeles-Australia route.
The push for “sustainable” aviation fuel has received a fillip with Qantas poised to announce it will power its Los Angeles-based aircraft with biofuel from 2020.
Qantas announced last week it will buy the renewable jet fuel from Philadelphia-based biofuel company SG Preston for use in aircraft operating from Los Angeles to Australia.
Qantas will buy eight million gallons (36 million litres) of renewable fuel each year and was aiming at reducing carbon emissions and becoming more fuel efficient.
The move comes after Qantas ran trials in 2012 on a Sydney-Adelaide service powered by a biofuel that combined cooking oil with conventional jet fuel and after Virgin Australia announced last week that it would trial biofuel on planes out of Brisbane for the next two years.
The commercial biofuel deal would enable Qantas to lock in supply for the LA-based aircraft where we have a large fuel demand and where the biofuel industry is more advanced. Qantas was constantly looking for ways to be more fuel-efficient.
The biofuel, which uses plant oils, emits half the carbon emissions over its life cycle than traditional jet fuels. It will be a 50:50 mix of fuel produced from plant oils with traditional jet fuel. The move comes as carriers have stepped up their efforts to use biofuels.
In June, the International Air Transport Association called for governments to roll out policies to fast-track the deployment of aviation biofuels. These included loan guarantees and capital grants for production facilities and fiscal incentives for projects. Sustainable aviation fuels are an integral part of a comprehensive strategy but at the moment they are not being produced in enough quantity at a competitive cost.
Qantas said it was working with the federal and state governments on “the design of policies to support commercialization of aviation biofuels in Australia, which is currently sub-scale”.
Aviation biofuel will play a growing role in allowing airlines to reduce emissions in coming decades