Boeing’s next phase of its ecoDemonstrator 757 programme includes flight using US-sourced green diesel blend
The ecoDemonstrator 757 is fuelled with the green diesel blend (photo: Boeing)
Wed 24 Jun 2015 – The next phase has started of Boeing’s ecoDemonstrator programme involving a 757 loaned by leisure airline TUI that is focused on testing two new environment-related technologies and aviation biofuel. Boeing is collaborating with NASA on the programme and last week a test flight took place from Seattle to NASA’s Langley Research Center in Virginia that was powered using a blended sustainable green diesel fuel. Boeing first carried out a test flight using green diesel last December on the previous ecoDemonstrator 787 programme but this is the first to use a US-sourced supply. The other new technologies being tested involve ‘energy harvesting’ windows and a 3D-printed flight deck component made with excess carbon fibre taken from 787 production. Boeing has also released its latest annual Environmental Report that highlights performance and other technology innovations.
The 757 biofuel flight on June 17 used a blend of 95% petroleum jet fuel and 5% sustainable green diesel, a biofuel used in ground transportation. During the previous ecoDemonstrator 787 programme, a first flight used a blend of 15% green diesel and 85% conventional jet fuel in the left engine and in both engines for nine additional flights.
Boeing is providing data from the flights to support certification for commercial airline use. Also called renewable diesel, and not to be confused with biodiesel, green diesel is chemically similar to HEFA (hydro-processed esters and fatty acids) aviation biofuel that was approved in 2011.
Green diesel for the 787 ecoDemonstrator flights was supplied by Finland’s Neste Oil, whereas the product for the 757 flight came from Louisiana-based Diamond Green Diesel and made up from waste animal fats, inedible corn oil and used cooking oil. It was blended by Epic Aviation.
Boeing says that with a production capacity of 1.2 billion gallons (4.5bn litres) already in the US, Europe and Asia, green diesel could rapidly supply as much as 1% – 800 million gallons as of 2014 – of annual global jet fuel demand. With a cost that tracks with petroleum diesel, inclusive of US government incentives, green diesel approaches price parity with conventional jet kerosene, claims Boeing, and significantly reduces carbon emissions compared to fossil fuel on a life-cycle basis.
Among more than 15 technologies on the 757, Boeing has begun testing solar and thermal ‘energy harvesting’ to power electronic windows as a way to reduce wiring, weight, fuel use and carbon emissions. Boeing has also installed a 3D-printed aisle stand made from excess carbon fibre from its 787 airplane production to re-purpose the high-value material to reduce weight as well as factory waste.
Under contract with NASA’s Environmentally Responsible Aviation Project, the ecoDemonstrator 757 has recently tested active flow control on the vertical tail and bug-phobic coatings on the right wing. The build-up of bugs and ice on exterior surfaces can add to the drag and weight of an aircraft, so raising fuel consumption and emissions.
“This is not your everyday paint you’d buy in a store,” said Dr Jill Seeburgh of Boeing’s Chemical Technology Group in Boeing’s latest annual Environmental Report. “It takes collaboration across Boeing and with industry and university partners to develop materials that meet stringent aerospace requirements and can deliver the environmental benefits we want.”
The 2014 787 programme tested more than 25 promising technologies that could help improve environmental performance and Boeing says this accelerates innovation by giving engineers access to flight tests sooner than would be possible in the development process.
“Engineers can work for years refining and redesigning a new technology with software and simulators,” said Jennifer Holder, ecoDemonstrator Test Platform Manager. “Getting a chance to test an idea on a flying airplane enables someone to perform engineering tasks and procedures you may not otherwise get the opportunity to do. Our strategy is to learn by doing and inspire innovative thinking.”
Although not yet being tested as part of the ecoDemonstrator programme, the report features another innovative use of environmentally progressive materials being researched by Boeing that is inspired by nature.
“We wanted a sustainable material for the sidewall panels of the passenger cabin, which have lower mechanical requirements than other parts of the airplane,” explained Nieves Lapeña-Rey, leader of the Materials and Fuel Cells team at Boeing Research & Technology Europe in Madrid.
“We start with the fibres of the flax plant and a natural resin as part of a fire-resistant sustainable composite material. It’s a novel solution that can reduce the environmental impact of our products, while meeting stringent requirements for fire resistance, thickness, weight, noise reduction and basic mechanical performance.”
The report also highlights that in 2014, Boeing’s GHG emissions amounted to 1.26 million tonnes, a reduction of 3.2% on an absolute basis from a 2012 baseline, with water intake reduced by 6.8%. During the year, 20,650 tonnes of solid waste was sent to landfills, a 0.2% reduction from the baseline, and Boeing now has six ‘zero waste to landfill’ sites in the United States. This excludes hazardous waste, which generated 8% less in 2014 than in 2012.
“In facilities worldwide, the people of Boeing are working towards a target of zero growth by 2017 in greenhouse gas emissions, water intake, hazardous waste generation – normalised to revenue – and solid waste sent to landfills,” write Boeing’s CEO Jim McNerney and VP Environment, Health & Safety, Ursula English in the introduction to the report.
“This is a significant goal – and one we are on target to achieve even as we increase commercial airplane production rates by 50%. We are succeeding by addressing all areas of stewardship, from enhanced recycling in our facilities to designing buildings that meet LEED standards.”