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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.

Airbus believes that sustainable aviation fuels should be primarily reserved for the aviation industry, since there currently are not any other viable energy sources foreseen in the coming years. The company’s strategy is based on being the catalyst in the search for sustainable solutions leading to production of commercial quantities of sustainable aviation fuels.

A new 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 sustainable aviation fuel Flightpath,” is committed to supporting and promoting the production, storage and distribution of sustainably produced drop-in sustainable aviation fuels for aviation use. 

The objective is to reach two million tonnes of production and consumption by 2020, which represents roughly four per cent of the aviation fuel used across the European Union.

Airbus strategy

Sustainable aviation fuel research is a core tenet of Airbus’ initiatives to reduce the environmental impact of air transport, lowering its overall CO2 footprint. 

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 an sustainable aviation fuels roadmap has led to collaborative projects and flights with airline partners, along with the recent approval of 50 per cent blends of biomass to liquid (BTL) and hydroprocessed esters and fatty acids (HEFA) fuels on commercial flights. In one partnership effort, Lufthansa performed daily sustainable aviation fuel flights using a 50 per cent blend of jatropha-based fuel in one engine on an A321. 

Airbus also is working with the European Commission and other stakeholders to develop a European roadmap for the implementation of aviation sustainable aviation fuels in the European Advanced Sustainable aviation fuel 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. The first assessment from this effort, hosted by Montreal’s McGill University, is expected by the end of 2013.

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 supply effort through an ambitious global program connecting farmers, refiners and the airlines to form regional sustainable aviation fuel value chains. Researchers in Brazil are working on a sustainable aviation fuel created from the jatropha plant – with 4,000 hectares being grown for production. 

The company also teamed with Virgin Australia Airlines to support the cultivating of eucalyptus in Australia, and Airbus is supporting the development of 2,000 hectares of camelina for aviation fuel in Spain. Additionally, it is endorsing an initiative in Qatar to transform micro-algae into a sustainable source. 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. 

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 Latin America, Australia, Europe and the Middle East. Additionally, Airbus has partnered with Chinese airlines, companies, research institutes – including Tsinghua University and the China Petroleum and Chemical Corporation (Sinopec) – to explore fuel sources, develop a value chain, and produce aviation sustainable aviation fuel for use in the country; and is working with RT-Biotekhprom (Rostec Group) of Russia to accelerate the country’s sustainable aviation fuel development and commercialization – under terms of an agreement signed during 2013.

Airbus’ role in the value chain is to lead and manage the sustainability, assessment and lifecycle analysis. The company also will be monitoring any feasibility studies to ensure any solution developed can satisfy the sustainability criteria approved by the Round Table on sustainable aviation fuels, 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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