Biofuels, a simple way to a greener aviation

  • Biofuels promise up to 80% less CO2 emissions compared to kerosene
  • adapting a conventional jet engine to biofuel is inexpensive
  • on the other hand, the prices of biofuels and currently at least the double of kerosene
  • however, if the price of oil increases, biofuels would become competitive
  • around ten million tonnes per year are already produced
  • several airlines are committed to adopting them

Every month there are news about biofuels. Not only are European and global authorities forcing airlines to gradually reduce CO2, but also aircraft manufacturers and oil companies are investing in biofuels.

The Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) is produced from materials such as cooking oil or animal fats used in restaurants, or from other urban waste. But instead of ending up in landfills, the waste is turned into jet fuel. SAF cuts COemissions by up to 80 percent, and reduces particulate matter (that white tail in the sky) by 90 percent and eliminates sulfur oxide. It also can be used in any aircraft that uses fossil jet fuel, eliminating the need for any type of engine modification.

Compatible with any aircraft engine

Biofuels can be used with jet engines, Turboprops and the piston engine. Some adaptations may be required, but they are inexpensive. However, aircraft refueling structures and tools, storage tanks, etc. must also be adapted.

Limited production capacity, but growing quickly

Aviation burns over 6 billion liters of fossil fuels per year, or more than 6 million tonnes, while biofuel production currently stands at 100,000 t for Europe and the United States combined.

Nevertheless, production is skyrocketing: just Neste, one of the largest biofuel producers in the world, claims to have a production capacity of 1.5 tonnes per year from 2023. In the US and Europe, Neste’s sustainable aviation fuel annual capacity is currently 100,000 tons. With the Singapore refinery expansion on the way, Neste will have the capacity to produce some 1.5 million tons of sustainable aviation fuel annually by 2023.

“We are turning trash into treasure,” says Chris Cooper, Neste’s vice president for Renewable Aviation, one of a number of providers focused on the fledgling SAF market for business jets.  Cooper notes that business aviation burns 1.8 billion gallons of fossil fuel each year. “That’s a deep, dark footprint,” he says.