Flying the Eco-Friendly Skies

John Davis

With rising fuel costs and dropping passenger rates, airlines around the world are looking at ways to keep their operations in the air, both literally and financially.

This story in the Vancouver (BC) Sun says the 230 airline members of the International Air Transport Association and its 230 member-airlines believe biodiesel and ethanol could be part of the solution:

[T]he race for fuel-cost savings and better environmental performance without compromising safety and security is as urgent as ever, says Gunther Matschnigg, IATA’s senior vice-president for safety, operations and infrastructure. Biofuels are a key part of the future…

The first challenge is to cut up to 18 per cent of the aviation fuel wasted because of inefficient infrastructure and flight operations. That would reduce carbon emissions significantly, says Matschnigg.

Then governments and fuel suppliers must focus on alternatives. The goal: 10 per cent of total airline fuel needs to be met by alternative fuels by 2017. Governments must improve infrastructure, invest in technology and use financial incentives to get results; Europe is leading the way in setting standards…

Biofuels for jets offer big emission gains. First-generation biomass fuels made from sugars, starches, oils or fats from farm products that compete with food production are not yet allowed for aviation fuel, says David Behrens, director of IATA’s infrastructure strategy. Second-generation biomass fuels from forest and farm residues and municipal waste is already here. Third-generation biomass, made from algae – green pond scum – and other crops need lots more research but has high potential for reducing emissions.

The IATA is backing both second- and third-generation biomass fuels to blend with kerosene or petroleum-derived fuels. Next-generation aircraft will be able to use a wider sources of fuels, says Behrens.

The program eventually hopes to have a “zero emission” aircraft… possibly by 2050. In the nearer term, a 10 percent biofuel blend for aircraft fuel is possible for commercial use as early as 2013.

Biodiesel, Ethanol, News