As the aviation industry begins to cobble together a global supply chain for jet biofuel, in Europe it all starts with Finland's Neste Oil, whose NEXBTL technology already produces renewable aviation fuel in industrial-sized quantities at its state-of-the-art refinery in Porvoo, Finland.
NEXBTL jet biofuel significantly lowers an aircraft’s greenhouse gas emissions. Along with a smaller carbon footprint, it also lowers emissions from NOx. Nevertheless, it is also a pure hydrocarbon, fully compatible with all current aircraft engines.
In a first, as of last Friday all airlines flying in and out of Norway’s Oslo Airport could easily fuel up with Neste Oil's 50-50 biojet blend supplied by Air BP (see Neste Oil's press release).
“All airlines landing at Oslo Airport can have jet biofuel delivered from the airport’s main fuel farm and existing hydrant mechanism,” said Air BP, after receiving the first delivery of Neste's drop-in jet biofuel from biofuel logistics specialist SkyNRG and then handing it off to Avinor, the airport's operator.
Now aircraft can refuel without wasting precious time waiting on the tarmac for a specialized fuel truck to show up. For the first time, this puts biofuel on an equal footing with traditional jet fuel.
Lufthansa was the first airline to refuel at the airport. Scandinavian national carrier SAS and KLM Royal Dutch Airlines have signed up to purchase the airport's jet biofuel.
"Biofuel is one of the few alternatives we have that can help achieve significant reductions in greenhouse gas emissions from aviation," Vidar Helgesen, Norway’s Minister of Climate and Environment, told Biofuels International.
Complex supply chain
Air BP plans to take delivery of more than 330,000 US gallons. “The goal is to gradually increase this volume in the years to come,” Avinor said, adding, “Air BP has ambitions of becoming a pioneer in delivering biofuel to the aviation sector, and the collaboration is an important step in the right direction.”
Augmenting Neste Oil's reliable throughput, Air BP is one of the world's largest suppliers of aviation fuel products and services. It currently supplies over seven billion gallons of jet kerosene across the globe each year, operating in over 50 countries.
SkyNRG focuses on developing regional supply chains that offer a real sustainable and affordable alternative to fossil fuels. The company supplies more than 20 airlines worldwide.
SkyNRG delivered camelina oil to Neste Oil's refinery in Finland for processing. Camelina, a flowering plant that can be found in semi-arid regions, is grown in Spain by the Camelina Company España. Next it was blended with conventional jet A fuel in Sweden at a ratio of 48% biofuel to 52% fossil fuel.
Similar efforts are maturing the the US, where airlines are increasingly under pressure to reduce carbon emissions, and the Obama administration has proposed that new limits on aviation emissions be developed.
So last summer, a United Airlines flight took off from Los Angeles and flew to San Francisco using fuel created from farm waste and animal fats by AltAir Fuels of Southern California, which employs Honeywell UOP's fast pyrolysis technology called Rapid Thermal Process (RTP).
United has also invested $30 million in Fulcrum BioEnergy, the biggest investment so far by a domestic airline in the small but growing field of alternative fuels. (Cathay Pacific, based in Hong Kong, last year announced a smaller investment in Fulcrum.)
Fulcrum has developed and certified a technology that turns municipal waste into drop-in jet fuel. It is building a biofuel refinery in Nevada that will open in 2017, and has plans for five more around the country.
Fulcrum said its technology can cut an airline’s carbon emissions by 80 percent compared with traditional jet fuel.
Although the quantities that United is planning to buy from Fulcrum are a small drop in its ocean of fuel consumption, where last year alone, United’s fleet consumed 3.9 billion gallons of fuel, at a cost of $11.6 billion, it's a start.
Alaska Airlines aims to use biofuels at least at one of its airports by 2020. Southwest Airlines announced last year that it would purchase about three million gallons a year of jet fuel made from wood residues from Red Rock Biofuels. The first blend of this new fuel product, however, won’t be available until 2016.
Back in Europe, British Airways joined with Solena Fuels to build a biofuel refinery near London’s Heathrow Airport, which will be completed by 2017.
Although the fuel at Oslo is made from camelina, Avinor’s long-term goal is to set up a supply chain based on Norwegian forest residues, which are produced as a by-product of the forestry industry. Two producers are already lined up to develop this fuel and, when taken together, they are forecast to produce enough biojet fuel to reduce emissions from Norwegian aviation by 10-15%.
Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam is also moving towards creating a "bioport." Having signed an agreement with SkyNRG and home carrier KLM, Schiphol hopes to have the program, which will use biofuel made from used cooking oil, up and running by 2017.
Brisbane Airport has also engaged SkyNRG to develop a bioport. Research on appropriate feedstocks is underway and hopes are high that Brisbane will have the first bioport in the Asia-Pacific region.