photo: Brian via flickr.
And then there were... well, I've stopped counting how many airlines are trying to develop a biofuel that will enable them to keep on flying and become carbon neutral(ish), but Qatar Airways is the latest to enter the ring. The project will be a joint affair between Qatar Airways, Qatar Science & Technology Park, and Qatar Petroleum: Based on feasibility studies on biomass-to-liquid jet fuel (think: second-generation biofuels) done by Seattle's Verno Systems, the trio have established the Qatar Advanced Biofuel Platform which will be active in the following areas developing: 1) an engineering and implementation plan for "economically viable and sustainable biofuel production"; 2) a biofuel investment strategy; 3) an advanced technology development program; 4) ongoing market and strategic analysis.
Specific Feedstocks Not Announced
As far as what feedstocks might be used economically viably and sustainably, Biofuels Digest spoke with Verno Systems, which declined to comment in specific.
However Verno confirmed something which anyone even casually following aviation biofuels knows, that jatropha, camelina, algae and salicornia are being investigated for future flying use. Verno also added though that waste biomass may also figure more prominently in the coming decade.
In developing biomass-to-liquids jet fuel, Qatar Airways says it is building upon the success of its gas-to-liquids test flight back in October. (That's still fossil fuels, for anyone scratching their head...) "We now move on to the next phase of alternative fuels while continuing to develop GTL further," Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker said in a press statement.
No timetables as to when Qatar Airways passengers may be able to fly in a more eco-friendly manner were given.
Aviation Biofuels are the Future, But Just Not Yet
With all the biofuels test flights done in the past year a couple things are clear: 1) biofuels perform very well alongside fossil fuels, in fact they have actually proven to work more efficiently; and 2) producing them at any scale approaching commercial demand is a ways off still.
Aircraft manufacturer Boeing has estimated that aviation biofuels could be used commercially in a few years. Airbus expects that by 2030 about 30% of all jet fuel used will be biofuel.
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