Revolution in plane sight

Environmental Sustainable fuels

“As a company,“ states Darrin Morgan, Director of Biofuel Strategy at Boeing, “We realised about seven years ago that the aviation industry needed to participate in energy source decisions and options, to ensure our industry’s long-term growth and a more sustainable future. So Boeing decided to get involved in shaping the development of sustainable aviation biofuel.”

“The performance of fossil fuels is well-understood, and that includes the negative impact of petroleum’s CO2 emissions. Since we can’t improve fossil fuel from an environmental perspective, we are moving aggressively to shape the future of fuels that are made from biologically based sources.” Morgan explains. “To do this, we partner with crucial stakeholders - including airlines, governments, research institutions, energy companies and others - to develop a commercially viable set of fueling options that will help our industry to meet environmental goals and other issues.”

The aviation industry is focused on developing biofuel types that meet or exceed performance standards, are blended directly with petroleum jet fuel without any changes to the airplane or engine, and also meet strict third-party sustainability criteria. While there is strong demand by airlines for sustainably produced aviation biofuel, two challenges must be overcome to realize greater biofuel use: expanding the supply of approved biofuels and reducing the per-gallon cost to airlines.

This is why Boeing and Neste recently announced that they will collaborate to gain approval for a high quality renewable fuel called HEFA+ - to be used by the commercial aviation industry.

HEFA+looks promising as a “drop in” solution with petroleum jet fuel. It’s more price-competitive with conventional petroleum jet fuel, which is important to cost-sensitive airlines, and there’s a large existing supply of high quality renewable fuels made by Neste in Europe and Asia.

“With aviation biofuel,” continues Morgan, “environmental concerns are absolutely driving our industry forward because we need to meet aggressive goals to reduce CO2 emissions. But that’s not all: the underlying reality is that biofuel is better fuel.  It’s technically superior to fossil fuel. People think biofuel is an old-school fuel, struggling to adapt to the performance of petroleum. In fact, biofuel has a higher energy density, it has a lower freeze point, it lacks pollutants you see in fossil jet. So it’s cleaner and more efficient for aviation.”

For both environmentally conscious and cost-conscious members of the flying public in the near future then, it is clear that Boeing, for one, is taking its commitments to sustainability and dramatic future reductions in CO2 emissions seriously. 

“Not too far off,” summarises Morgan, “we can envision the day when, something approaching 1% of aviation’s global jet fuel demand could be addressed by this HEFA+ product. Neste makes very good fuel. No question about it. They’re very, very good at what they do.”