Boeing, UOP, Masdar Institute and Industry Team Launch Study on Sustainability Of Renewable Jet Fuel Made from Halophytes
|UOP’s hydrotreated renewable jet fuel process and LCA. Source: Evaluation of Bio-Derived Synthetic Paraffinic Kerosenes. Click to enlarge.
Boeing and Honeywell’s UOP are commissioning a study on the sustainability of a leading family of saltwater-based plant (halophytes) candidates for renewable jet fuel. The study is being commissioned as part of the Sustainable Aviation Fuel Users Group consortium (earlier post).
The Masdar Institute of Science and Technology in Abu Dhabi will lead the study, which will examine the overall potential for sustainable, large-scale production of biofuels made from salicornia bigelovii and saltwater mangroves. Yale University’s School of Forestry & Environmental Studies and UOP will also participate in the analysis, which will include an assessment of the total carbon lifecycle of biofuels.
Halophytes can be productive sources of biomass energy; for example, salicornia seed is 32% oil by mass. Halophytes thrive in arid land and can be irrigated with sea water, making them suitable for biofuel development; Abu Dhabi is thus a viable location for conducting a lifecycle-analysis study on the plants. UOP has been working with Global Seawater Inc., a group developing integrated seawater systems using salicornia and mangroves. With improved plant science and agronomy, early testing results indicate that halophytes have the potential to deliver very high yields per unit of land.
The halophyte study will evaluate aquaculture management and practices, land use and energy requirements and identify any potential adverse ecological or social impacts associated with using halophytes for energy development, specifically for aviation biofuel development.
To verify data gathered during the analysis, the halophyte study will be peer-reviewed by third parties and measured against practices and principles developed by the Roundtable for Sustainable Biofuels. The results are expected to be available in late 2010.
We must continue to evolve biofuels to incorporate feedstocks that are not only sustainable, but actually regenerative and can restore the ecosystems where they are found. Global Seawater Inc. has led the development of a promising solution, and we are excited to be working with this team to further develop and understand the potential impact of integrated seawater systems.—Jennifer Holmgren, general manager of UOP Renewable Energy & Chemicals
Sustainable biofuel development is a key component of aviation’s strategy for lowering carbon emissions. Potential plant sources being considered are only ones that don’t distort the global food-chain, compete with fresh water resources or lead to unintended land use change.
In June, Boeing and a team from across the aviation industry high-level elements of a study that shows that sustainable biofuels analyzed in a series of test flights performed favorably in comparison to petroleum-based fuel. According to the study, Evaluation of Bio-Derived Synthetic Paraffinic Kerosene (Bio-SPK), a series of laboratory, ground and flight tests conducted between 2006 and 2009 indicated the Bio-SPK test fuels performed as well as or better than typical petroleum-based Jet A. The testing included several commercial airplane engine types using blends of up to 50% petroleum-based Jet A/Jet A-1 fuel and 50% sustainable biofuels. (Earlier post.)
Boeing and the scientific and academic communities are stepping forward to look at the totality of each renewable fuel source that can help us reduce carbon emissions. By working with Masdar Institute to look at these species in a formal research framework, we will better know if certain types of halophytes meet the carbon reduction and socioeconomic criteria that will allow them to become part of a portfolio of sustainable biofuel solutions for aviation.—Billy Glover, managing director of Environmental Strategy for Boeing Commercial Airplanes
Global Seawater, Inc. is a for-profit company based on seawater agriculture and aquaculture technologies transferred from the Seawater Foundation, including Seawater Farms Bahia Kino and its pilot integrated seawater farm project along the desert coast of the Sea of Cortez in Sonora, Mexico. Integrated seawater farms utilize seawater and coastal deserts to grow halophyte crops for biodiesel, biomass, carbon credits and food.
The two key plant species for the agriculture and forestry areas in the GSI are salicornia and mangrove trees, respectively. In addition to the salicornia seed oil that can be converted into fuel, the halophyte yields protein meal, and green tips and biomass (straw) that remains after harvesting. Additionally, the root structures of the plant absorb between 2 to 3 metric tons (MT) of atmospheric carbon per hectare per year, according to GSI.
Mangrove trees are well-known for their vast root structures and high growth rates. Mangroves are selectively harvested for wood, animal fodder, and absorb up to 8 MTs of atmospheric carbon per hectare per year.
SAFUG. The Sustainable Aviation Fuel Users Group formed in September 2008, and is focused on accelerating the development and commercialization of sustainable aviation fuels&mash;fuels that meet the sustainability criteria and can be processed to yield a fuel that can be a drop -n replacement for, or blended with, existing jet fuel. Sustainable fuels will utilize existing distribution, storage, and fueling systems. They will not require any changes to existing commercial jet engines. Examples of possible sources for sustainable aviation fuel are: algae, camelina, halophytes, jatropha, and non-food cellulose.
Group members include: Air France, Air New Zealand, Alaska Airlines, ANA (All Nippon Airways), British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Cargolux, TUIfly, Gulf Air, Japan Airlines, KLM, SAS, Virgin Atlantic Airways and Virgin Blue. Boeing and Honeywell’s UOP are associate members.
Masdar. The Government of Abu Dhabi founded the Masdar Institute of Science and Technology to research and develop alternative energy and sustainable technologies. Masdar Institute is an independent, non-profit, research-driven graduate institution established with the support and cooperation of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
A successful outcome of the study will give the Masdar Initiative an opportunity to expand its portfolio of renewable energy technologies into biofuels that are sustainable and can be grown locally, Dr. Sgouris Sgouridis of Masdar Institute said. The Masdar Initiative aims to create and sustain the world’s first carbon-neutral, zero-waste city, Masdar City, located on the outskirts of Abu Dhabi. (Earlier post.)
Evaluation of Bio-Derived Synthetic Paraffinic Kerosenes (Bio-SPK) (June 2009)