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GE joins consortium to develop Australian aviation biofuel via pyrolysis and upgrading pathway

GE has joined Virgin Australia and a consortium of other partners to research and develop commercial biofuel for the aviation industry. The consortium will focus on pyrolytic conversion of biomass from mallee eucalypt trees with subsequent upgrading of the resulting bio-oil, and intend to have a pilot biofuel production unit operating in Australia by 2012. (Earlier post.)

The agreement comes as the aviation industry puts added focus on carbon emissions as it becomes covered by emissions trading schemes around the world. GE is already developing more fuel efficient jet engines within its sustainable transport portfolio; the development of biofuels is a natural extension of this, the company said.

Innovation and creativity will play enormous roles as part of the transition to a low carbon future. We already invest a huge amount in the development of more efficient and alternative energy sources in the aviation industry and beyond, and we hope to bring a huge amount of knowledge to this partnership.

—Ben Waters, Director of ecomagination, GE Australia and New Zealand

A recent CSIRO report estimated that the aviation industry could cut greenhouse gas emissions by 17%, generate more than 12,000 jobs and reduce Australia’s reliance on aviation fuel imports by $2 billion per annum over the next 20 years through the adoption of biofuels. (Earlier post.)

The consortium includes Renewable Oil Corporation, the Future Farm Industries CRC, and Canadian biofuels company Dynamotive Energy Systems Corporation alongside Virgin Australia and now GE.

As well as the development of the fuels, GE will assist with the certification process. Before being approved for commercial use, new fuels undergo rigorous tests in laboratories, on engine test rigs and then in carefully monitored non-commercial flights.


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