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Sustainable aviation fuel

Supporting industry initiatives

The development of multiple supply sources, such as camelina, is a key element of Airbus’ approach to the future of alternative fuels.

Sustainable aviation fuels – which are produced from renewable resources – can reduce CO2 emissions by up to 80 per cent per tonne of fuel, resulting from the total life cycle of alternative fuel production. Finding sustainable drop-in fuels that can be produced in commercial quantities without competing with food crops and water supplies is the only near-term alternative to fossil fuels for powering large commercial jetliners.

Airbus is a catalyst in this search for sustainable aviation fuels through a global programme connecting raw material producers, refiners and airlines to form regional “value chains” on every continent. 

An industry-wide initiative to speed up aviation sustainable aviation fuel commercialisation in Europe has been launched by Airbus, the European Commission, leading European airlines and key European sustainable aviation fuel producers. This initiative, called the “European Advanced Biofuels Flightpath,” is committed to supporting and promoting the production, storage and distribution of sustainably produced drop-in sustainable aviation fuels for aviation use, with the objective to reach two million tonnes of production and consumption by 2020. 

Airbus also is a member of the Roundtable on Sustainable Biomaterials (RSB), an international initiative that brings together farmers, industry, organizations, experts, and governments concerned with ensuring the sustainability of biomaterial production and processing.

Airbus strategy

Sustainable aviation fuel research is a core tenet of Airbus’ initiatives – focusing on three central principles: supporting the qualification and certification of new fuels; the large scale use of sustainable aviation fuels; and ensuring the sustainability of solutions. 

Airbus’ premise is based on establishing local sustainable solutions in communities around the world, because the company believes that multiple supply source solutions – such as camelina, jatropha, algae, yeast, woodchips and organic waste – can co-exist. 

Once sources are established, the next phase would focus on expediting the use of sustainable aviation fuels commercially, enabling the air transport industry to meet the targets of carbon neutral growth by 2020, and the 75 per cent CO2 reductions established by the Flightpath 2050 vision.

Sustainable aviation fuels roadmap

With an adequate supply of sources such as jatropha, Airbus believes one-third of aviation fuel could come from alternative sources by 2030.

Airbus’ launch of a sustainable aviation fuels roadmap has led to collaborative projects and flights with airline partners, along with approval of 50 per cent blends of biomass to liquid (BTL) and hydroprocessed esters and fatty acids (HEFA) fuels on commercial flights. Through May 2014, more than 1,500 commercial flights have been flown with alternative fuels worldwide. 

Airbus also is working with the European Commission and other stakeholders to develop a European roadmap for the implementation of sustainable aviation fuels in the “European Advanced Biofuels Flightpath” initiative. In Canada, Airbus announced a partnership in 2013 with Air Canada and BioFuelNet Canada to evaluate solutions for production of sustainable sustainable jet fuel in the country.

With adequate supply sources that have the ability to produce commercial quantities of sustainable aviation fuel, and support from governments, Airbus believes that up to a third of aviation fuel could come from alternative sources by 2030.

The Value Chain

Airbus is leading this alternative fuel supply effort through an ambitious global program connecting farmers, refiners and the airlines to form regional sustainable aviation fuel value chains. 

As airlines fly across continents and have to be able to refuel anywhere, the goal is to establish local value chains on every continent. Programmes already have been established in Australia, Brazil, China, the Middle East, Romania and Spain. 

The company teamed with Virgin Australia to commission a two-year study on the practicability of using Australia’s mallee trees to produce suitable alternative fuels, which determined in 2014 this jet fuel was suitable for commercial flights and meets strict sustainability standards.

Researchers in Brazil are working on a sustainable aviation fuel created from the jatropha plant – with 4,000 hectares being grown for production. Airbus also is supporting the development of 2,000 hectares of camelina for aviation fuel in Spain. Additionally, the company endorsed an initiative in Qatar to transform micro-algae into a sustainable source and established a project – together with TAROM Romanian Air Transport and a consortium of key stakeholders – to evaluate jet-fuel processing and production capability in Romania. 

As part of agreements signed in Paris in 2014 between Airbus and China, the two parties launched a cooperative effort to drive research into regional sustainable jet fuel and other initiatives to reduce the environmental footprint of the Chinese aviation sector. 

These local partnerships are designed to help airlines benefit from local knowledge and connections, as well as encourage area farmers with the confidence that crops will be bought by refiners – which in turn have the airlines as customers. Airbus’ role in the value chain is to lead and manage the sustainability, assessment and lifecycle analysis. The company also monitors any feasibility studies to ensure any solution developed can satisfy the sustainability criteria approved by the Roundtable on Sustainable Biomaterials (RSB), of which Airbus is a member.

Did you know?

"In the last 40 years, the aviation industry has cut fuel burn and CO2 emissions by70%, NOx emissions by 90% and noise by 75%."

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