Rolls Royce and British Airways cannot find 15,000 gallons of biofuels for intensive ground testing that meets volume, sustainability, and performance criteria.
Due to lack of biofuels supply, the companies have suspended their testing program. Rolls Royce planned to test four alternative fuels on a RB211 engine taken from one of British Airway’s Boeing 747 aircraft, but only three responses were issued from worldwide tenders. Only one of the three responses said it could meet the sustainability criteria (be produced without a detrimental impact on food, land or water), but the tender could not deliver enough biofuel supply to conduct long-term testing. According to Green Air Online:
The problem, though, highlights the lack of current pilot projects capable of supplying second-generation sustainable biofuels in the required quantities for long term aero engine testing, due in part to the considerable investment necessary in potentially risky ventures.
The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has set a target for its airline members to use a blend of 10% alternative fuels by 2017. With commercial airlines burning around 70 billion gallons of jet fuel in 2008, which is expected to fall by around 4.5% in 2009, there is likely to be a demand therefore for around 7 billion gallons of alternative fuels within nine years, depending on traffic growth after the current recession has passed and other fuel efficiency gains.
Rolls Royce is not a newcomer to biofuel usage in aviation; the company was involved in the Air New Zealand jatropha fueled flight last December.
Image: Green Air Online