The development of alternative fuels for aircraft has come one step closer with the launch of a project to investigate the potential of Gas to Liquid kerosene (GTL), a synthetic fuel made from natural gas.
Given the long life of today's aircraft, and the vast infrastructure that exists to support them, industry consensus is that any short to medium-term alternative fuel must have similar properties to kerosene, so it can be used without the need for costly modifications. GTL meets this requirement, and, if approved by the authorities, could be used on the current generation of aircraft.
Airbus engineers will collaborate with Rolls Royce, Qatar Airways, Qatar Petroleum and Shell on research into the operational and environmental benefits of the use of GTL fuel for aviation. The cleaner combustion characteristics of the new fuel will reduce exhaust emissions leading to an improvement in local air quality around airports. A possible reduction in CO2 emissions could deliver further environmental benefits. This research is also the first step on the road towards biofuels, widely regarded as the best option for a longer-term alternative aviation fuel.
Qatar Airways, who currently have 88 Airbus aircraft on order, want to be the first airline to use GTL, to enable them to take advantage of the large reserves of natural gas in the state of Qatar.
Whilst there is some scepticism about the use of alternative fuels and the environmental impact of their production, further research is required into their potential benefits versus possible issues. As part of its call for an eco-efficient industry, Airbus is keen to play a central role in this research.
This research project is one of several steps that Airbus is taking towards becoming an eco-efficient enterprise - contributing to global growth and adding value with less and less impact on the environment.
Read the Airbus alternative fuel group press release