Boeing, Virgin, Join Group Committed to Biofuel Development for Commercial Airlines

This is a guest post by Meg Hamill who works at the Environmental non-profit LandPaths, in Sonoma County, California.

Leaders in the aviation industry join together, committing to bring sustainable practices into their fuel supply chain.


For those of us who have taken a flight recently,  it’s obvious that the airlines are in trouble.  Who ever would have thought that we’d be paying extra for a pillow?  Or an aisle seat?  With the rise in oil prices, many airlines are seeking out creative ways to stay afloat.  Some of these companies are going straight to the heart of the issue, and beginning to investigate a more sustainable fuel supply.

While Boeing has been researching biofuels in the aviation industry for some time, last week’s formation of a new collaborative group ratchets up their commitment to the issue, and brings some key players to the table.

Boeing joined Virgin Atlantic Airways, along with eight other commercial airlines to establish the Sustainable Aviation Fuel Users Group.  The group is committed to accelerating the development of sustainable biofuels for use in the commercial airline industry.  Honeywell’s UOP, a refining technology developer, is also part of the group.

The mission of the Sustainable Aviation Fuel Users Group is to bring renewable fuel sources (that will reduce carbon emissions) into commercial aviation, while simultaneously lessening the industry’s exposure to the volatility of oil prices, and dependence on fossil fuels.  The group is receiving support and advice from the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).

“This task force comes at just the right time to help airlines cut costs and decrease their greenhouse gas emissions,”  said Liz Barratt-Brown an NRDC attorney.

The nine airlines supporting the sustainable fuels initiative include Air France, Air New Zealand, ANA (All Nippon Airways), Cargolux, Gulf Air, Japan Airlines, KLM, SAS and Virgin Atlantic Airways. It is estimated that collectively, these airlines account for approximately 15 percent of commercial jet fuel use.

“This is a tremendous opportunity for leading airlines, supported by well-respected energy and environmental organizations, to help commercial aviation take control of its future fuel supply in terms of origin, sustainability and environmental impacts,” said Billy Glover, managing director, Environmental Strategy for Boeing Commercial Airplanes. “The number one priority going forward is to complete thorough assessments of sustainable plant sources, harvesting and economic impacts, and processing technologies that can help achieve that goal.”

Each member of the group has agreed to a sustainability pledge, stating that any sustainable biofuel must perform as well as, or better than, kerosene-based fuel, but with a smaller carbon life cycle.  Also included in this pledge was a promise to consider only renewable fuel sources that reduce biodiversity impacts, such as fuels that require the minimum amount of land, water and energy to produce, and that don’t compete with food or fresh water resources.

>> See Also: Continental, Boeing Schedule Biofuel Test Flight For 2009

Photo Credit:  from Flickr under a Creative Commons Attribution License


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