Sunday, January 2, 2011

Biofuel for aircraft

The gas turbine engine (be it turboshaft, turboprop, or jet) has a number of virtues, one of which is the ability to run on pretty much anything that burns. When Chrysler built a series of experimental gas turbine cars in 1963, diesel was the recommended fuel, but drivers experimented with numerous other fuels, including gasoline, kerosene, jet fuel, tequila, and reportedly Chanel No. 5 with success. For this reason, turbine engines are good candidates for biofuel substitution. And it's happening:

The Australian airline Qantas will this month announce a deal to build the world's second commercial-scale plant to produce green biojet fuel made from waste for its fleet of aircraft.

Its proposed partner, the US-based fuel producer Solena, is also in negotiations with easyJet, Ryanair and Aer Lingus about building a plant in Dublin, although this project is less advanced.

Airlines are trying to reduce their reliance on fossil fuels ahead of their entry into the EU's carbon emissions trading scheme in January 2012 and the introduction of other new environmental legislation. Under the scheme, any airline flying in or out of the EU must cut emissions or pay a penalty.

Solena's joint venture with Qantas – which could be announced within the next fortnight – follows a tie-up with British Airways, signed in February last year, to build the world's first commercial-scale biojet fuel plant in London, creating up to 1,200 jobs.

Once operational in 2014, the London plant, costing £200m to build, will convert up to 500,000 tonnes of waste a year into 16m gallons of green jet fuel, which BA said would be enough to power 2% of its aircraft at its main base at Heathrow. The waste will come from food scraps and other household material such as grass and tree cuttings, agricultural and industrial waste. It is thought the Qantas plant, to be built in Australia, will be similar.

From the Guardian. The fact that it's waste that they're using, as opposed to food crops, is a very good thing; however I wonder just how much fuel can be produced that way. I suspect that future generations will fly a lot less than we do. Or, they'll make it out of palm oil, which is actually even worse than petroleum in terms of its climate effect, owing to the amount of rainforest that is typically cleared to produce it.

No comments: