A two-year study commissioned by Airbus and partners including Virgin Australia in 2012 into the practicability of using Australia’s mallee trees to make biofuels suitable for powering passenger jets (earlier post) has reported encouraging results.
The sustainability and life-cycle analysis covered the growing and harvesting of the mallee tree and its conversion into aviation grade biofuel via the pyrolysis thermal and upgrading processes developed by Dynamotive and IFP Energies nouvelles (IFPEN).
The report published by the Future Farm Industries Cooperative Centre (CRC) concludes that jet fuel made from the mallee tree will meet strict sustainability criteria determined by the Roundtable for Sustainable Biomaterials (RSB) and will be suitable for commercial flights according to the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM).
Mallee trees flourish in regions of poor soil and do not directly compete for water nor with food production. The vast Great Southern region of Western Australia was used in the study, which included examining the viability of a complete industry supply chain from grower to aviation user.
What this report demonstrates is that mallees can provide a future economic benefit to farmers and regional communities, with a viable industry possible by 2021. Mallee integrates well with farm crop and livestock operations and can protect and enhance biodiversity, and contributing to rebalancing water tables.—Dr. John McGrath, CRC Research Director
The study shows that if all flights departing Perth airport were powered by locally sourced mallee biofuel, that emissions could be reduced by at least 40%.