Renewable aviation fuel was a hot topic during the recent Aviation and Environment Summit in Geneva. During the event, the Sustainable Use of Renewable Fuels (SURF) consortium was announced with the intention of accelerating algae for aviation fuel. SURF was developed to support Cranfield University’s Sea Green project that will harvest algae to produce jet fuel at commercial scale. SURF is comprised of Airbus, British Airways, Rolls-Royce, Finnair, Gatwick Airport, IATA, and Cranfield University.
Cranfield currently has a pilot facility on campus that is growing and processing algae for biofuels. However, the long-term the goal is for Sea Green to be an ocean based facility and producing commercial scale levels of bio-jet fuel within three years. According to a press release, Sea Green’s ocean based facility, “will be designed to use the expanse of the world’s near-shore waters to rapidly grow microalgae at a faster rate than any other initiative and capture CO2 from the atmosphere and seas at the same time”
Researchers argue that this is a more sustainable method of biofuel production because it does not compete with agricultural land, doesn’t require fresh water, doesn’t result in deforestation, and doesn’t damage the environment.
“Many biofuels compete with agricultural land and fresh water which results in the price of food being pushed up. This project and consortium aim to see how algae could benefit the aviation industry,” said Professor Feargal Brennan, Head of Cranfield University’s Department of Offshore, Process and Energy Engineering.
Brennan continued, “It will look at ways to grow and harvest naturally occurring species of algae in large volumes and to process these into fuel. Algae grows naturally in sea water and with over 70 percent of the surface of the earth being water, Cranfield’s Sea Green project is a logical and potentially high yield solution. Few replacement options to kerosene for fueling commercial aircraft have been identified but jet fuel produced from algae produced in this way, could be a major break-through.”