Boeing has research programs into aviation biofuels in the U.S., Australia, Brazil, China, Europe, the Middle East, South Africa, and Southeast Asia, and soon in Mexico. It contends that “sustainably produced biofuel” would reduce lifecycle CO2 emissions 50-80%, compared to conventional petroleum fuel.

Boeing, Aeromexico Starting R&D for Aviation Biofuel

Feb. 25, 2016
Initiative effort adds Mexico to Boeing’s list of research programs to cut aviation carbon emissions Environmental, socio-economic goals New and innovative industry Four years government funding

Boeing Commercial Airplanes agreed to partner with Aeromexico and Mexico's Airports and Auxiliary Services to develop “sustainable aviation biofuel in Mexico.” It’s the third time in recent months that the OEM has lent its resources to the cause of reducing CO2 emissions from commercial aircraft.

The new initiative will be coordinated through the Mexican Bioenergy Innovation Center, and support Mexico's aviation sector “as well as its environmental and socio-economic goals,” according to a Boeing statement.

"To support customers and the aviation industry's long-term growth, Boeing is proud to partner with Aeromexico and many key stakeholders to move Mexico's sustainable aviation biofuel industry forward," stated Marc Allen, president, Boeing International. "Sustainable jet fuel will play a critical role in reducing aviation's carbon emissions and will bring a new and innovative industry to Mexico."

Boeing already has active biofuel projects underway in the U.S., Australia, Brazil, China, Europe, the Middle East, South Africa, and Southeast Asia. It cites the U.S. Dept. of Energy position that using “sustainably produced biofuel” would reduce lifecycle CO2 emissions 50-80%, compared to conventional petroleum fuel.

According to a Boeing report last year, more than 1,600 passenger flights worldwide have been conducted using aviation biofuel since 2011.

Most aviation biofuels are derived from plant sources, including algae, jatropha, and other waste oils. In Mexico, the formula is expected to be sourced from jatropha, salt-tolerant Salicornia, and sewage sludge. Research will be conducted on biomass sourcing, fuel production, sustainability and lifecycle assessment, and aviation biofuel market development.

The initiative's projects are expected to meet sustainability criteria established by the Roundtable on Sustainable Biomaterials.

Through the agreement, Mexico’s Potosinian Institute of Scientific and Technological Research (IPICYT) will lead a broader aviation biofuel development effort involving 17 Mexican universities and research centers, as well as Aeromexico and Boeing, and other Mexican companies (including Pemex, QENER and Tratamientos Reciclados del Sureste), the Mexican Petroleum Institute, Masdar Institute of Science and Technology in United Arab Emirates, and the U.S. Joint BioEnergy Institute. 

Mexico’s government and participating institutions will fund the effort for four years, aiming to develop a self-sustaining business model.

Last December, Boeing formed a partnership with the Port of Seattle and Alaska Airlines to identify the prospects for “sustainable aviation biofuel,” involving plans for a fuel production and handling operation (a “fuel farm”) at the airport. They launched a feasibility study to assess the costs and infrastructure needed to deliver a blend of aviation biofuel and conventional jet fuel for aircraft at Sea-Tac.

And, earlier this month, Boeing (among other aviation industry notables) committed to support a proposed new standard to reduce aviation-sourced carbon-dioxide emissions. The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) Committee on Aviation Environmental Protection (CAEP) recommended a new set of aircraft CO2 certification standards for future production of new aircraft designs, and existing and in-production aircraft designs.

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