Case Study

Powering biofuel research down under

Environmental Sustainable fuels

Australia has become one of the world’s most important centres for biofuel research and a new organisation, the Australian Initiative for Sustainable Aviation Fuels (AISAF), aims to develop partnerships in order to build commercial supply chains for sustainable aviation fuels in Australia and internationally.

A May 2011 study concluded that there will be sufficient biomass to support almost 46% of the aviation fuel needs of both Australia and New Zealand by 2020 and over 100% of fuel needs by 2050. AISAF is helping to make that a possibility.

On 13 April 2012, Qantas operated Australia's first commercial flight powered by sustainable aviation fuel. An Airbus A330 flew from Sydney to Adelaide powered with a 50:50 blend of biofuel and conventional jet fuel in one engine. Derived from used cooking oil, provided by SkyNRG, the life cycle carbon footprint of the biofuel component of the blend was approximately 60% smaller than that of conventional jet fuel.

Meanwhile, Virgin Australia has supported a University of Queensland project to undertake a detailed analysis of a potential Queensland-based renewable jet fuel industry from three distinct biomass sources – sugar cane, pongamia, and algae.

Both airlines are also members of the Sustainable Aviation Fuel Users Group, a global consortium of airlines pledged to develop sustainable aviation that will perform as well as, or better than, traditional fossil fuel jet kerosene but with a smaller carbon lifecycle. Other commitments are to use only biomass feedstock sources that minimise biodiversity impacts, requiring minimal land, water, and energy to produce; not to compromise food security; not to jeopardise drinking water supplies; and provide socio-economic value to local communities where biomass is grown.