Sustainable Alternative Fuels

  • May 19, 2017

The introduction of sustainable alternative jet fuel is one of the most exciting areas of green development in aviation and will be key for a more sustainable aviation sector, as alternative fuels offer a great opportunity to significantly lower carbon emissions. They can be produced from a broad range of feedstock that offer life cycle carbon benefits, however, attention must be paid that the chosen fuels pose minimal risk to indirect land use change, which could cause damage to natural environment or undermine food security. ICAO and the aviation industry are working to develop methodologies and sustainability criteria for alternative jet fuel.

Following a series of test flights since 2008, the aviation industry has been given approval to use biofuels in passenger flights. Due to the global and integrated nature of the commercial aviation system, alternative fuels need to be ‘drop in’ to the existing fuel supply chain, blending the alternative fuel with traditional fuel in increasing quantities. In contrast to a low blend limit for many biofuels for cars, alternative aviation fuel already has high blend percentage capacities.

While some technical obstacles remain at manufacturing level, such as certification and compatibility, the main challenges of commercialisation and economic viability need to be tackled now. The cost differential between fossil fuel and alternative jet fuel remains high and stable policy frameworks are required to incentivise alternative jet fuel capacity and assist in accelerating the production of advanced alternative fuels for aviation.

In the EU, the legislative framework for alternative fuels is the Renewable Energy Directive (Directive 2009/28/EC), which is currently being revised. In 2011 the European Commission in partnership with Airbus and in cooperation with leading European airlines (Lufthansa, Air France/KLM and British Airways) and key European biofuels producers (Nestle Oil, Biomass Technology Group and UOP) launched the European Advanced Biofuels Flightpath to speed up the commercialisation of aviation jet fuel in Europe.

The working body in charge of this issue is the Environment Commission.

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