Airlines Gearing Up to Use Fuel Made From Algae and Wood Chips

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The following are excerpts from a Bloomberg article (read the whole thing here):

Growing jet fuel on an algae farm.
After decades of waiting, commercial airlines have been given the go-ahead to use fuel made from algae, wood chips and other plants with obscure names.

Test flights in recent years by United Continental Holdings Inc. (UAL), Japan Airlines Co. and Virgin Atlantic Airways Ltd. have shown that planes can fly on everything from coconut oil to jatropha, a plant that grows in the tropics.

On July 1, ASTM International, an American organization that sets worldwide technical standards for the airline and other industries, gave approval for carriers to mix fuel made from organic waste and nonfood plants with kerosene, which is conventionally used to power planes, Bloomberg BusinessWeek reports in its July 11 edition.

“A lot of companies have been waiting for the certification,” says Mark Rumizen, fuel specialist at the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration. “It’s going to drive a lot of investment.”

Airbus, which together with Boeing makes about 80 percent of the world’s passenger planes, estimates that by 2030 plant-derived formulas could make up as much as 30 percent of the market for aviation fuel.

Boeing, Honeywell International Inc. (HON) and the U.S. Air Force have tested at least 20 different types of fuel derived from organic waste and plants such as jatropha and camelina, found in parts of Europe and North America, as well as organic material, including garbage.

Boeing and Airbus are building supply networks that include growers, refiners, transporters, and distributors to bring biofuel to airports worldwide.

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