Aviation is currently completely reliant on conventional fossil fuels, so finding a viable alternative is becoming something of a Holy Grail. Although a long way from reaching this goal, certain steps lay down markers and provide a glimpse into the future – certification being one of the most important of these.
Indeed, two companies utilising biofuel-based technologies have just received sustainability certification based on standards set by the Roundtable of Sustainable Biomaterials (RSB), an international multi-stakeholder initiative. Its standard covers a wide range of environmental, social and economic principles and criteria.
Joint venture company Beijing Shougang LanzaTech New Energy Science & Technology’s process of converting waste steel mill gases to sustainable biofuels was certified, along with Canada-based PGF Biofuels for the production of oilseed crop brassica carinata, also known as Ethiopian mustard.
“LanzaTech's capture and fermentation of waste gases, and PGF Biofuel's sustainable production and harvesting of oilseed crops, each provide a glimpse of the future of aviation fuelling,” said Stowe Beam, MD of environmental certification services at SCS Global Services, which awarded the certifications. “SCS Global Services is pleased to play a role in verifying pathways leading us away from fossil fuels toward more efficient and renewable sources to meet tomorrow's global energy needs.”
The LanzaTech process transforms carbon rich waste gases and residues from industry into fuels and chemicals, with no impact on food or land resources. Meanwhile, SGS commented that brassica carinata, as used by PGF, has an “optimum oil profile for use in the biojet fuel industry and is well-suited for growth in arid and semi-arid regions”.
These approaches form part of a wider momentum that is building in the aviation industry to invest in and develop new sources of energy. The biggest aircraft manufacturers, Boeing and Airbus, have formed a number of strategic partnerships with the aim of developing new sources of biofuel and building aviation biofuel industries in various regions.
In another example, GE Aviation recently signed a contract with D’Arcinoff Group for the purchase of cellulosic synthetic biofuel, to be used for production and development testing of GE jet engines. The engine manufacturer signed a ten-year agreement which commits it to purchasing 500,000 gallons of the alternative fuel source per year.
What was once seen mostly as a drive for environmental benefits is now a very real race for fuel efficiency and lower fuel costs in a determined attempt to erase dependency on fossil fuels.