Alaska Airlines, Boeing, and Others Create Regional Sustainable Biofuels Initiative

by | Jul 13, 2010

Alaska Airlines, Boeing, Portland International Airport, Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, Spokane International Airport and Washington State University have created an initiative to promote aviation biofuel development in the Pacific Northwest. The “Sustainable Aviation Fuels Northwest” project will look at biomass options to jet fuel within a four-state area as a way to reduce their carbon footprint.

Biomass sources used as aviation biofuel could potentially save millions of tons of aviation greenhouse gas emissions, according to the group. Currently, air travel generates approximately 2 percent of man-made carbon emissions, and the industry has set aggressive goals to lower its carbon footprint, including the use of aviation biofuel when it becomes available, say the organizations.

Touted as the first regional assessment of its kind in the U.S., the initiative will examine all phases of developing a sustainable biofuel industry, including biomass production and harvest, refining, transport infrastructure and actual use by airlines. It will include an analysis of potential biomass sources that are indigenous to the Pacific Northwest, including algae, agriculturally based oilseeds such as camelina, wood byproducts and others.

Boeing, together with airline carriers, has been testing new biofuels since 2008 as a way to increase fuel efficiency.

EADS, parent company of Airbus, also has started research into using algae for jet fuel and debuted the first aircraft, a twin engine Diamond DA42, to be powered solely by algae in June.

The Pacific Northwest project is jointly funded by the participating organizations and is expected to be completed in approximately six months.

The assessment process will be managed by Climate Solutions, a Northwest-based environmental nonprofit organization, which will align the effort to sustainability criteria developed by the Roundtable on Sustainable Biofuels. The project objective is to identify the activities needed to make aviation biofuel commercially available to airline operators serving the region.

The kickoff meeting in July will be followed by additional meetings throughout the assessment process. Attendees will include biomass producers, refiners, airport operators, environmental and government organizations, airlines, academic representatives. Topics to be addressed include scale, commercial viability and environmental considerations.

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