Sunday, August 27, 2017

Future Fuels for Flight and Freight - Planes and Trucks Get a Rubbish Scheme

Government Pledges 22 Million Pounds for Biofuels - but is it Enough?
Shipping News Feature
UK – There have been various stories regarding the powering of planes and trucks with fuels extracted from waste materials of all sorts over the past few years, British Airways for example reiterated in 2014 that from this year it would purchase 50,000 tonnes of such from the now defunct 'Green Sky' project. Now as part of its 'Future Fuels for Flight and Freight' policy to promote clean alternative fuels, the government is offering funding for projects in the UK to develop low carbon waste-based fuels for planes and trucks, with matching funding from industry, somewhat ironic as BA blamed the government for the collapse of the scheme just last year.

The shadow transport minister, Richard Burden at that time said government support for the plan to turn up to 600,000 tonnes of post recycled waste into fuel at a converted refinery in Thurrock was ‘derisory’ but it seems now things have moved on, although what the administration is prepared to put into new projects is still likely to come in for some criticism as it is committed to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 80% by 2050.

Due to the scrapping of Green Sky Britain already lags behind Europe and the US in the matter of aviation fuel extracted from rubbish. In 2012 BA made a deal with Solena Fuels in Washington D.C. to buy jet fuel in an eleven year contract that would have seen the price matched to market fuel costs. Now the Department of Transport says it has already had interest from over 70 groups bidding for the reported £22 million in funding.

This however is small potatoes in the world of refining, the Green Sky scheme alone saw huge numbers bandied about. Solena Fuels’ claimed it had invested $600 million to resolve the technology required. Solena opted for a Fischer-Tropsch process, a treatment whereby, after waste is heated in a depleted oxygen environment (called gasification) producing a ’synthesis’ gas combining hydrogen and carbon monoxide (and perhaps carbon dioxide) it then converts to a liquid fuel.

The government claims that the biofuels produced from waste ‘could’ be even more sustainable than current crop-based biofuels, already used in some road-based vehicles and emphasises that the ‘Future Fuels for Flight and Freight’ competition is part of the government’s Modern Industrial Strategy, which sets out to support evolving industries with the potential to boost the economy, with a claim that low carbon transport fuels made from waste materials could be worth £600m a year to the British economy by 2030, and could also support up to 9,800 new jobs.

The new fuels are chemically very similar to conventional fuels, so can be used in existing aircraft without the need for any engine modifications and Department for Transport Minister Jesse Norman commented:

“We are committed to cutting carbon emissions and promoting new environmentally-friendly fuels that will help us meet that goal. We are making funding available to innovative businesses which will lead the way in developing alternative fuels that are efficient, sustainable and clean. We want every new car and van in the UK to be zero emission by 2040, but we know lorries and aeroplanes will rely on more traditional fuels for years to come so we must promote environmentally friendly alternatives.”