Saturday, May 29, 2010

Algae May Carry Your Air Freight In The Future

Jet Fuel From Chinese Plants to Power First Test Flight
Shipping News Feature

CHINA - A press release this week from the Boeing Corporation and PetroChina announcing their joint programme to evaluate establishing a sustainable aviation bio fuels industry in China demonstrates just how seriously the major players in the aircraft industry are taking the potential shortage of traditional sources of carbon based jet fuel with its associated cost and the implications for both freight and passenger transport in the future. Importantly potential plant sources being considered are only ones that don't distort the global food-chain, compete with fresh water resources or lead to unintended land use change.

The strategic assessment is the first such effort in China and will take a comprehensive look at the environmental and socio-economic benefits of developing sustainable alternatives to fossil-based jet fuels. It will look at all phases of sustainable aviation bio fuel development including agronomy, energy inputs and outputs, lifecycle emissions analysis, infrastructure and government policy support. The assessment, slated to begin in June, supports a broader sustainable aviation bio fuel agreement between China's National Energy Administration and the U.S. Trade and Development Agency to promote the commercialization and use of aviation bio fuels in China. Other U.S. companies participating include AECOM, Honeywell's UOP and United Technologies. Air China and PetroChina Company, Ltd. will lead the Chinese team.

In addition, Boeing Research & Technology and the Chinese Academy of Science's Qingdao Institute of Bio energy and Bioprocess Technology (QIBEBT) agreed to expand their collaboration to include other research institutions and aviation supply chain entities as part of their efforts on algae-based aviation bio fuel development. Boeing and QIBEBT previously announced the establishment of a joint research and development laboratory focused on algal growth, harvesting and processing technologies.

The Joint Laboratory for Sustainable Aviation Bio fuels will be located in Qingdao and managed by Boeing Research & Technology-China and QIBEBT, which will work together to place a strong emphasis on commercial applications for developed technologies. Finally, Air China, PetroChina, Boeing and Honeywell's UOP agreed to conduct an inaugural flight using sustainable bio fuel derived from biomass grown and processed in China. PetroChina will provide the biomass, which will be processed into jet fuel by UOP. The bio fuel flight, which will occur in China, will highlight the viability of the entire supply chain – from seed to flight. Additional details on the flight timing and location will be announced at a future date.

"Boeing is actively pursuing bio fuel research around the world," said Boeing China President David Wang. "Sustainable bio fuels 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."

Photo: An ‘Algae Farm’