Biomass-Based Aviation Fuels

Enlow and Associates

November 22, 2022

Aviation Fuels

Whether flying for business or pleasure, you can be more environmentally friendly by switching to sustainable aviation fuels. These fuels are made from plant and animal sources. For example, biofuels are made from agricultural and municipal solid waste, oil seeds, animal fat, or wood waste.

Biomass-based fuels

Increasing biomass-based aviation fuels is expected to reduce emissions from air transport and contribute to climate change mitigation. In addition to reducing carbon emissions, biomass-based aviation fuels could also extend the life of older aircraft.

In the United States, the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) requires petroleum refiners to replace fossil fuels such as gasoline and diesel with renewable fuels. The Biomass Program at the Department of Energy (DOE) guides researchers and policymakers.

The European Union has established a policy to reduce carbon emissions from the aviation industry by 60 percent by 2050. The Netherlands has a similar policy. Norway also has a policy. Other countries have established their policies. For example, in the United Kingdom, there is a policy promoting biomass-based aviation fuels.

Wood waste

Using Sustainable Aviation Fuels (SAF) is a way to reduce the carbon footprint of flying. These fuels are made from various renewable sources, including wood waste and animal fat. As a result, they can reduce life cycle GHG emissions dramatically. The aviation industry has thrown its support behind SAF and is working with sustainability certification schemes to ensure that fuels are adopted without unintended consequences.

SAFs can be produced with chemical, physical, or biological reactions. Some emerging SAF pathways have a net negative GHG footprint.

One pathway is to convert waste feedstocks such as municipal garbage, fats, oils, and greases into biocrude. This can then be used to produce jet fuel at conventional petroleum refineries. In addition, these new pathways could allow the emerging SAF industry to use existing infrastructure.

Animal tallow

Increasing the production of sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) requires a focus on innovative sustainable feedstocks and improved production technologies. However, the higher cost of SAF means there are limits to its use. Hence, governments must develop policies that will drive SAF growth.

The EU is seeking to increase its list of eligible feedstocks. However, the proposed list would stifle the development of advanced biofuels. It would also undermine confidence in the aviation industry’s decarbonization efforts.

A4E is concerned that the proposal would increase the use of unsustainable feedstocks. This would harm the European oleochemical, pet food, and animal feed sectors. It would also stifle innovation in sustainable e-fuels.

The European Parliament’s Transport committee recently passed a proposal to increase the definition of green jet fuel. The proposal requires aircraft to uplift a fixed percentage of green jet fuel, including animal fat as sustainable aviation fuel.

Municipal solid waste

Several companies are looking for ways to convert municipal solid waste and other sources into sustainable aviation fuels. The goal is to reduce the aviation industry’s carbon footprint. Currently, the industry accounts for 2.5% of global greenhouse gas emissions. The International Civil Aviation Organization has committed to reducing net aviation CO2 emissions by 50% by 2050. Several airlines are signing forward purchase agreements to support the development of SAFs.

wasteful is a California-based start-up developing technology for producing SAF from municipal solid waste. The company is in discussions with potential partners, including potential partners in Africa and Europe. The company plans to develop its first commercial plant in Manila, Philippines, by 2025.

Other companies are looking for new sources of biofuel. For example, the United States has more than one billion dry tons of biomass each year, which could be converted into fuel. The process would also reduce methane emissions, which can leak into landfills.

Oilseeds

Agricultural biomass is a renewable energy source, but it can generate emissions. In addition, using nitrogen fertilizer to increase crop yields results in N2O emissions, which have higher GWPs than CO2. These emissions reduce the GHG advantage of biofuels.

Using oilseeds as sustainable aviation fuels is a good way to reduce these emissions. In particular, non-edible vegetable oils can be produced on marginal land and require lower inputs.

Agricultural biomass can be collected from various sources, including corn grain, algae, and oil seeds. The United States Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy estimates that biomass can be collected annually from various sources.

The conversion of biomass to aviation biofuels requires fossil energy, as well as fossil chemicals. However, these processes also generate carbon gains in biomass. The growth of bioenergy has increased the demand for efficient biofuel stocks. Ideally, efficient stocks must be multipurpose to be economically viable for producers.