Airbus has joined a consortium that includes Virgin Australia, Renewable Oil Corporation, the Future Farm Industries CRC, Canadian biofuels company Dynamotive Energy Systems Corporation and GE to study a new pathway for the production of sustainable aviation fuels from mallee trees using fast pyrolysis and subsequent bio-oil upgrading. (Earlier post.)
Eucalyptus mallee trees, grown in Western Australia’s wheat belt, are sustainably harvested and converted to a feedstock. Mallee is indigenous to Australia and is well adapted to the environment. It is a suitable sustainable crop because it helps return salt-affected land to a productive state.
Mallee can be planted on farms alongside crops, and provide a range of environmental benefits and contribute to the long term sustainability of the overall farming operation. Growing these trees to make alternative fuels encourages large scale planting, which is expected to bring a range of environmental and social benefits to farmers and rural communities.
The pyrolysis thermal conversion process has yet to be recognized by the world’s fuels standards authorities. Airbus’ role includes supporting the approval and certification process so that Pyrolysis based fuels can be used for the first time in commercial aviation.
The project objective is to have a pilot alternative fuel production plant operating in Australia in the next year. The sustainability analysis is managed by the CRC, Airbus and the UK’s Manchester Metropolitan University.
In order to produce a biofuel that can be used sustainably in our current aircraft, it is important to have members from every part of the supply chain involved. Airbus will bring vast expertise in aircraft manufacturing to the consortium and we are very pleased to have a company of its caliber joining this promising Australian project.—Virgin Australia Group Executive of Operations Sean Donohue
The partnership agreement aims to develop a complete sustainable aviation bio-fuel production capability in Australia, using only sustainable resources and is part of the Airbus goal to have in place a value chain in every continent by 2012. So far Airbus has value chains in Latin America, Europe the Middle East, and now Australia.