Airbus’ renewable fuel strategy calls for energy sources around the globe

12 July 2012 Feature story

Airbus’ commitment to developing innovative alternative fuel sources in support of a sustainable air transport industry was underscored by company managers at this week’s Farnborough Airshow. 

“We see biofuels as so important that we want to be right in the center of the industry,” said Keith Bushell, the UK stakeholder manager for Airbus Environmental Affairs, during a presentation at the air show’s Innovation Zone on alternative fuel research.Airbus, in conjunction with other leading aircraft industry players, biofuel producers and the European Commission, has launched an industry-wide initiative called “Biofuel Flightpath.” This program’s objective is to have two million tonnes of sustainably produced biofuel annually by 2020 – almost four per cent of the European Union’s annual fuel consumption. 

The company’s contribution to this commitment is the identification of alternative fuel sources on each continent where its jetliners fly, and the establishment of “value chains” – the systems where farmers and regional governments collaborate to establish sustainable supplies from providers. 

Airbus already has established five value chains worldwide and has supported this collaborative effort through testing, the examination of new technologies and the use of in-development alternative fuels on experimental flights. Various supply sources currently are being researched in different parts of the world as sustainable sources for air transportation. Researchers in Brazil are working on bio-jet fuel created from the jatropha plant – with about 4,000 hectares planted for development in this South American country. Meanwhile, Qatar has a similar project with micro-algae, and Airbus has teamed with Virgin Australia Airlines to support the growth of eucalyptus for fuel development.  Airbus also has supported the planting of 2,000 hectares of the oil-producing plant camelina in Spain.

“Airbus sees itself as a catalyst for making these changes happen,” Bushell said. 

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