Biofuels Flying High with Algae

Laura McNamara

Airbus and JetBlue Airways are just two of a handful of airlines exploring the use of biofuels made from algae to power their planes. The Green Tech Blog reports that a joint biofuel effort – which also includes international airlines Aero Engines, Honeywell Aerospace and UOP, a second Honeywell company – was announced Thursday.

The group plans to study ways to make commercial aviation fuels out of so-called second-generation feedstocks such as algae.
Airbus A380

Success with algae would be a salve for biofuel boosters who are feeling the sting of a backlash against early hype… Algae as a fast-growing fuel source–and a gobbler of carbon dioxide, a major greenhouse gas–is a notion that’s been catching on with a number of start-ups and academic researchers.

But for the moment, biofuel from algae remains an experiment in progress, expensive to produce and still entangled in a number of technical challenges.

That’s where the backing of established and heavyweight manufacturers such as Honeywell and Airbus could make a difference. Honeywell says that its UOP subsidiary, a specialist in refining technology, has been working for some time in a DARPA-funded project to convert natural oils and grease into military jet fuel and has commercialized a process for producing “green diesel” from biofeedstocks.

Biodiesel, transportation