Airbus has joined a consortium including Virgin Australia to study a new pathway to produce sustainable aviation fuels. Eucalyptus mallee trees, grown in Western Australia’s wheat belt are sustainably harvested and converted to a feedstock for refining into alternative aviation fuel via a process called Pyrolysis.
Mallee is indigenous to Australia and is well adapted to the environment. It is a suitable sustainable crop because it helps return salt-affected land to a productive state. Mallee can be planted on farms alongside crops, and provide a range of environmental benefits and contribute to the long term sustainability of the overall farming operation. Growing these trees to make alternative fuels encourages large scale planting, which is expected to bring a range of environmental and social benefits to farmers and rural communities.
The Pyrolysis thermal conversion process has yet to be recognised by the world’s fuels standards authorities. Airbus’ role includes supporting the approval and certification process so that Pyrolysis based fuels can be used for the first time in commercial aviation.
The consortium also includes Future Farm Industries CRC, which is developing sustainable farming systems as part of the Australian Government’s Cooperative Research Centres (CRC) program.
The project objective is to have a pilot alternative fuel production plant operating in Australia in the next year. The sustainability analysis is managed by the CRC, Airbus and the UK’s Manchester Metropolitan University.
“Alternative fuels are a crucial part of the roadmap for sustainable aviation and to help meet our ambitious CO2 reduction targets. We are privileged to be working with our Australian partners in this exciting value chain project,” said Tom Enders, Airbus President and CEO.
Virgin Australia Group Executive of Operations Sean Donohue said: “In order to produce a biofuel that can be used sustainably in our current aircraft, it is important to have members from every part of the supply chain involved. Airbus will bring vast expertise in aircraft manufacturing to the consortium and we are very pleased to have a company of its calibre joining this promising Australian project”.
The partnership agreement aims to develop a complete sustainable aviation bio-fuel production capability in Australia, using only sustainable resources and is part of the Airbus goal to have in place a value chain in every continent by 2012. So far Airbus has value chains in Latin America, Europe the Middle East, and now Australia.