Biofuels have been a topic in aviation sector corporate responsibility for several years, leading to numerous initiatives from airplane manufacturers and airlines to advance their research and development. Boeing, for example, has been working with the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and other partners towards a goal of producing 1 billion gallons of aviation biofuel by 2018.
Last week, it was announced that Boeing is expanding its commitment to biofuel advancement with partners in Mexico. A combination of government support and corporate investment will fund a biojet research and development program in support of Mexico’s aviation sector.
"To support customers and the aviation industry's long-term growth, Boeing is proud to partner with Aeromexico and many key stakeholders to move Mexico's sustainable aviation biofuel industry forward," said Marc Allen, president, Boeing International. "Sustainable jet fuel will play a critical role in reducing aviation's carbon emissions and will bring a new and innovative industry to Mexico."
Boeing and Aeromexico will collaborate on the aviation biofuel development effort with Mexico’s Airports and Auxiliary Services (ASA), the Potosinian Institute of Scientific and Technological Research (IPICYT), and 15 other institutions: Mexican companies Pemex, QENER and Tratamientos Reciclados del Sureste; 9 research centers; the Mexican Petroleum Institute; the US Joint BioEnergy Institute; and the Masdar Institute of Science and Technology in United Arab Emirates (UAE). Boeing and Masdar have previously collaborated on the development of a sustainable aviation biofuel supply chain in the UAE.
"The success of these efforts would not be possible without the team work of Airports and Auxiliary Services (ASA) and our strategic partner Boeing," said Sergio Allard, Chief of People & Industries Affairs Officer, Aeromexico. "They have been a fundamental part in projects like the first transcontinental biofuel flight in the history of world aviation performed in a Mexico-Madrid route, or the green flights between Mexico and Costa Rica. In Aeromexico, we recognize that conducting a sustainable operation is an everyday commitment. We are ready to assume the challenge and break the myth that you cannot be socially and environmentally responsible and competitive at the same time."
The initiative will be funded for four years by the Mexican government and participating institutions, while a self-sustaining business model is established. The research will cover biomass sourcing, fuel production, sustainability and lifecycle assessment, and aviation biofuel market development.
According to the US Department of Energy (DoE), the use of sustainably produced biofuel reduces lifecycle carbon dioxide emissions by 50 to 80 percent compared to conventional petroleum fuel. This new collaborative effort is expected to use jatropha, salt-tolerant Salicornia, and sewage sludge as its biofuel feedstocks. The projects are expected to meet the sustainability criteria established by The Roundtable on Sustainable Biomaterials (RSB).
Meanwhile, JetBlue Airways recently joined the RSB. JetBlue is the first US airline member of the group; the company joins over 100 other organizations working to create a market and standard for sustainable biomass and bio-based products. JetBlue will participate in discussions as they relate to the aviation sector.
“JetBlue is joining The Roundtable on Sustainable Biomaterials as renewable biofuels will become increasingly more important for aviation to continue to grow responsibly,” said Sophia Mendelsohn, the head of sustainability at JetBlue. “Science has given us drop-in biofuels, which means there will be no change to our engines or systems – and no compromise to safety. There are no silver bullets when it comes to finding the right biofuel, so we are reaching out for partners; we are all in this together.”
JetBlue reported that the company began “actively exploring the purchase of biofuel options for commercial use” this year, and “was the only airline to sign the White House’s 2015 American Business Act on Climate Pledge, highlighting its support for an international climate agreement toward a low-carbon, sustainable future.” The company has committed to develop a biofuels plan in 2017 and has pledged to work alongside others in the industry towards goals related to both biofuel development and emissions reduction.
“Biofuels are inevitable for the future of the aviation industry. We know we have to start laying the groundwork today as an investment in our future,” Mendelsohn said. “In order to make this work, businesses globally need to join together for a low-carbon future.”