With the fuel rates touching the skies, the demand for commercialized biofuel has increased and is felt to be the most viable alternative. The aviation industry has taken a significant step forward in adopting biofuel. The newly created Sustainable Aviation Fuel Users Group has revealed that it requires the members to use biofuels that are only produced from nonfood sources and that have minimal environmental impact.
Any plant that produces fat can be used to produce biofuel. The most common feedstock for producing biofuel have been corn, sunflower, rape, sugar cane, palm etc.
Now scientists have turned to making oil from coconuts and soybeans. This biofuel is supposed to be similar to kerosene that is derived from oil.
Scientists at the Energy and Environmental Research Center (EERC) at the University of Dakota produced fuel from these plant oils. This fuel is said to have a similar energy density content and even freezing point, which is -47 degrees Celsius.
People in the know reveal that this is no small feat and could prove to be great as jet fuel. This oil is processed in a manner that it contains the same hydrocarbon molecules that are present in petroleum fuel.
The process involves heating the plant oils in the presence of an undisclosed catalyst to create several petroleum products. The cost of this processing is said to be less expensive than that of refining petroleum oil as there are no contaminants like sulfur.
The exact price tag for this biofuel has not yet been determined and they say that it will depend on the cost that goes into growing these crops.
As of now, only a few gallons have been brewed. Scientists say it is going to take time as the total jet fuel consumed everyday in the U.S. is more than 60 million gallons, which is a huge 225 million liters.
Several airlines have shown interest in biofuels recently. Nuts picked from the rainforests of Amazon helped fuel the world’s first commercial airline flight, which was partly powered by biofuel. Virgin Atlantic, earlier this year, has completed the world’s first biofuel-powered test flight of one of its commercial aircrafts. It flew a jumbo jet to Amsterdam from London with one of the tanks filled with biofuel that contained coconut oil. The airline said the biofuel was 25 percent of the total fuel for this first test flight. This marks a breakthrough for the airline industry as a whole. A jet that was completely powered by biodiesel has also stayed aloft for more than 30 minutes. Of course, they had to use a special device in order to ensure the fuel did not freeze at high altitude.
According to Sustainable Aviation Fuel Users Group, the aviation fuels that can be used are:
• The ones that come from crops that are non-competitive with food and do not spoil the drinking water resources.
• That produce less greenhouse gases; during the growth, harvesting, processing and when during use.
• Crops that do not require involuntary displacement of population.
• Those that do not require clearing of conservation areas or native ecosystems.
Currently, 95 liters of bio-jet fuel is in the process of being produced for ground testing in a jet engine, as early as next month.
This biofuel push is being implemented with the support from the Natural Resources Defense Council and the World Wildlife Fund and Natural Resources.
Since there is less competition to create biofuels for jets, the market is right now huge for production of biometry. There is also likely to be more demand for biofuels for jets, also because European countries limit the carbon emissions or tax the airline industry, which accounts for 2 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions.
Biofuel for jets is in its initial stages and a lot of advances are inevitable in the coming years. Experts say that something good has come out of the rising oil prices, and that is – environmental awareness.