China will be next to conduct a biofuel demonstration flight, with an Air China Boeing 747-700 expected to fly by the end of November on a blend of conventional and hydrotreated renewable jet fuel.
The flight will be conducted under the auspices of a U.S.-China energy cooperation program launched in 2009. A May 2010 agreement between Air China, PetroChina, Boeing and Honeywell company UOP covers the demonstration flight, using fuel derived from biomass grown in China, and evaluation of the potential for establishing a sustainable aviation biofuel industry in China.
PetroChina provided the biomass, which has been processed into biofuel by UOP and is now being blended with conventional jet fuel for the demonstration flight, Zheng Xingwu, a professor at the Civil Aviation University of China, told the International Civil Aviation Organization’s sustainable fuel workshop in Montreal last week.
Possible raw materials for aviation biofuels identified by the study include jatropha, which is grown in remote valleys and mountain areas in southern and southwest China, and shiny leaf yellowhorn, a native shrub grown in northern China.
Establishing a domestic biofuel supply chain would help meet China demand for jet fuel, which Zheng said is projected to increase to 23.7 million tons in 2015, from 15.3 million tons in 2010, and to 35.8 million tons in 2020. Biofuel would also help Chinese aviation meet its target of reducing CO2 emissions by 3% a year.
China’s demonstration flight comes as several airlines conduct revenue-service trials using the limited supplies of hydrotreated renewable jet fuel currently available.
In Mexico, Interjet has launched a year-long program of weekly biofuel flights between Mexico City and San Jose de Costa Rica, using an Airbus A320. The 52-flight campaign began on Sept. 27, using a blend of 25% camelina-derived biofuel.
The Mexican government’s “flight plan” for sustainable aviation biofuels is targeting meeting 1% of national demand (40 million liters a year) by 2015 and 4% (700 million liters a year) by 2020. Candidate feedstocks identified include jatropha, castor, salicornia, agave and algae.
In Brazil, having completed a test flight this year with camelina-derived biofuel, Embraer is now planning a flight in 2012 with a renewable jet fuel produced from sugar cane, using an advanced fermentation process developed by Amyris. The flight will involve an E-Jet operated by Brazilian airline Azul.
Embraer will collaborate with Boeing and the São Paulo State Research Foundation (FAPESP) on development of a report, to be completed in late 2102, detailing a roadmap to creating a sustainable jet-fuel supply chain in Brazil. Airlines Azul, GOL, TAM and Trip will be advisers.
Work to approve jet fuels produced via the so-called “direct sugar to hydrocarbon” (DSHC) pathway, like the Amyris process, for use in aircraft has begun at standards organization ASTM International.
DSHC is one of two new production pathways on which ASTM has begun work, aiming for approvals in 2013-15. The other is alcohol-to-jet (AJT), which allows biofuel to be produced from cellulosic feedstocks.
LanzaTech, meanwhile is working on a process to convert industrial CO2 emissions to biofuel via the AJT pathway. The company has an agreement with Virgin Atlantic Airways, assisted by Boeing, to certify the fuel and conduct the first flights in two to three years.