Biodiesel could play larger role in aviation fuel - US Boeing

19 June 2009 21:14  [Source: ICIS news]

HOUSTON (ICIS news)--Tests conducted by a group of aviation companies showed that biofuels performed as well as or better than traditional jet fuel, US aircraft manufacturer Boeing said on Friday. 

Although Boeing said the widespread use of biodiesel is still a few years away, the aviation industry’s use of the renewable fuel would be a boon for the US biodiesel industry, which is currently struggling to survive amid anaemic sales.

A series of laboratory, ground and flight tests conducted from 2006 to 2009 indicated that the test fuels performed as well as or better than typical petroleum-based jet fuel, Boeing said. The tests analysed blends of 50% renewable fuel and 50% traditional fuel.

The study showed the renewable fuel blends used in the test flight programme met or exceeded all technical parameters for commercial jet aviation fuel, including freezing point, flash point, fuel density and viscosity, Boeing said.

Boeing said it expected ASTM, the group responsible for approving engine standards, to approve the use of biofuels in jet engines sometime next year.

Bill Glover, Boeing's environmental strategy managing director, said biodiesel produced from seeds of the jatropha plant showed promise, but was still a few years away as the industry grappled with efficiently harvesting the crop. Widespread use of algae-based biodiesel in the industry depended on technological improvements in harvesting that could still be 10 years away, Glover said.

Different airlines tried a variety of biofuels in test flights conducted over the past several years, Boeing said. An Air New Zealand flight used fuel derived from the jatropha; a Continental flight used a blend of jatropha and algae-based fuels; and a Japan Airline flight used a blend of jatropha, algae and camelina-based fuels.

Boeing, based in Chicago, is the world’s largest maker of commercial and military aircraft.

Bookmark Simon Robinson’s Big Biofuels Blog for some independent thinking on biofuels
For more information on biodiesel, visit ICIS chemical intelligence
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By: Ben Lefebvre
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