Biofuel-powered flights might soon take off

Published September 14, 2018, 12:00 AM

by manilabulletin_admin

For years, airlines have experimented with biofuels, aiming to reduce both carbon emissions and their reliance on fossil fuels. It’s been a turbulent journey buffeted by inconsistent investment and the periodic lure of cheap oil.

But several major carriers are planning larger-scale usage of biofuel in 2019 and 2020, including JetBlue Airways Corp. and Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd. United Continental Holdings, Inc. said Thursday that it would cut its carbon emissions by half over 2005 levels, by 2050, matching an industry target set by the International Air Transport Association (IATA). Airlines account for about 2 percent of annual global carbon emissions, but the industry’s rapid growth and future expansion across emerging markets has made aviation’s environmental impact a top issue for executives and regulators.

“I would describe the biofuels in aviation as an evolution over time,” said Aaron Robinson, senior manager for environmental strategy and sustainability at Chicago-based United, which first made biofuel part of its routine operations in 2016 at its Los Angeles hub. The company in 2015 invested $30 million for a stake in Fulcrum BioEnergy, Inc., which takes household solid waste and converts it to a liquid that is blended with regular jet fuel.

Beyond the supply at LAX, airports in Oslo, Stockholm and Bergen, Norway, offer biofuels to blend into existing fuel supplies. As of June, more than 130,000 commercial flights have been powered by biofuel, according to the IATA. Such flights are currently limited by industry standard to a maximum 50 percent blend with regular jet fuel. (Bloomberg)