The Port of Seattle, Boeing and Alaska Airlines released a first-of-its-kind study that identifies the best infrastructure options for delivering aviation biofuel to Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. In pursuit of its goal to power every flight at Sea-Tac with sustainable aviation biofuel, Sea-Tac is among the first airports in North America to work with aviation, energy and research partners to systematically evaluate all aspects to developing a commercial-scale program from scratch.
The objective of the study was to identify the best approach to deliver up to 50 million gallons (and to double to 100 million after 2025) of aviation biofuel per year into the fuel hydrant delivery system at Sea-Tac International Airport. A total of 29 sites across the state were identified and screened. The sites were located in King, Pierce, Whatcom, Skagit, Grays Harbor and Franklin Counties, Washington.
The original 29 sites were narrowed to six locations based on a number of criteria, such as access to fuel transportation modes (pipeline, rail, marine and truck), zoning, wetlands and other environmental considerations, etc. The application of additional criteria, including infrastructure development costs, focused the analysis to the three properties best suited to meet project goals.
Conceptual infrastructure development improvements and costs were developed for a total of six options for the three sites, and a feasibility evaluation scorecard was completed to compare the six options.
The study evaluated more than 30 sites around Washington State that could potentially support the receipt, blending, storage, and delivery infrastructure required to supply Sea-Tac Airport with up to 50 million gallons per year of sustainable alternative aviation fuel (also referred to as aviation biofuel). Potential sites were evaluated both for the ability to accommodate near-term (12-18 months) supplies of five million gallons per year and long-term (2-10 years) supplies of more than 50 million gallons per year.
Unlike the biofuel itself, fuel blending and delivery infrastructure cannot grow on trees. We needed this comprehensive analysis to confirm that we can offer commercial airlines feasible and sustainable delivery options while reducing our environmental footprint and being a good neighbor to surrounding communities.—Port of Seattle Commissioner John Creighton
In pursuing an integrated aviation biofuels supply chain, sites were selected based on the capacity to accommodate delivery of unblended biofuel by pipe, rail, barge, and/or truck, and were evaluated based on land use, zoning, and environmental considerations. The most-feasible sites were determined based on the construction costs of the needed infrastructure, environmental constraints, permitting and planning, and other contingences to help determine an overall score and final recommendation.
Key findings included:
Without a long-term supply source or agreement in place for aviation biofuels, it would be prudent to focus short-term investments on smaller scale facilities that are exible and could support other aviation fuel supply uses.
Infrastructure requirements for fuel of oading from rail and marine modes are high in cost, so these facilities are only cost-effective for large volumes of biofuel over the long term.
A small biofuel receiving and blending facility at the Sea-Tac Airport Fuel Farm is the most cost-effective solution in the short term. In addition, this facility would ful ll an existing critical need for additional local fuel receipt and of oading infrastructure that is not dependent on the Olympic Pipeline.
The north-end refineries are the most cost-effective options for receipt and blending of large volumes of aviation biofuel over the long term due to their access to marine, rail, truck, and the Olympic Pipeline. In this study, Tesoro Anacortes was used as a proxy for any of the three refineries that currently produce Jet-A fuel in Whatcom and Skagit Counties. This conclusion should be re-evaluated in the future when a large-scale producer of neat biofuel is identified.
The Phillips 66/Olympic Pipeline Company sites in Renton also showed potential to accommodate receipt and blending facilities for moderate-to-large biofuel volumes over the long term.
The study sponsors received a very positive reception from the Olympic Pipeline Company, the petroleum re neries and distributors. These fuel supply and transport organizations showed strong interest in upgrading their facilities to handle aviation biofuel and moving the blended product in their pipelines.
As the biofuel supply expands, the Port of Seattle, its partners, and the fuel supply and transport organizations could work cooperatively toward the ultimate goal of integrating aviation biofuel into the fuel hydrant delivery system at Sea-Tac International Airport.
Commercial aviation is committed to reducing the industry’s carbon footprint, and biofuels are key to achieving that goal. We’re encouraged that this study shows the viability of making a biofuel blend available to every flight at Sea-Tac Airport. As part of our global strategy to develop and commercialize biofuel, we’re proud to support our hometown partners and keep the Pacific Northwest in the forefront of these innovative efforts.—Ellie Wood, regional director of environmental strategy for Boeing Commercial Airplanes
An aviation biofuel production plant was not considered in this feasibility study. However, once a long-term aviation biofuel source is identified, it will be an important next step to determine its relative proximity to the sites considered in the study. The closer the source of the aviation biofuel to a biofuel blending and integration facility, the lower the costs associated with the fuel.