China joins the sustainable jet biofuel flight club as Air China and Boeing conduct two-hour demonstration
Air China 747-400 takes off on biofuel flight (photo: Boeing)
Fri 28 Oct 2011 – Air China and its US and Chinese partners today conducted China’s first-ever sustainable biofuel flight. The two-hour demonstration flight from Beijing Capital International Airport of a Pratt & Whitney powered Boeing 747-400 used a blend of conventional jet kerosene and a biofuel sourced from China-grown jatropha. PetroChina, along with Honeywell’s UOP, sourced and refined the biofuel and was blended by China National Aviation Fuel. Air China and Boeing are working on plans for a trans-Pacific flight between China and the United States with biofuel sourced from both countries. Earlier in the year, Air China said the demo flight would help verify the feasibility, supply capacity and commercial potential of Chinese-produced biofuel that met ASTM fuel standards, and aims to build a platform for an industrial supply chain in the country. China’s consumption of jet fuel is currently increasing by an average 13.6 per cent annually.
The flight, which took off and landed in Beijing, used a 50/50 blend of kerosene and UOP’s Green Jet Fuel in one of the aircraft’s four engines and the biomass was grown on PetroChina’s jatropha plantation cooperation base in southwest China.
“This historic flight illustrates exactly how bilateral collaboration can help address environmental challenges, and we commend the Chinese for their leadership in helping to develop sustainable aviation solutions,” said Boeing China President Marc Allen.
Boeing said the airliner manufacturer and its partners, including the US-China Energy Cooperation Program that was launched in 2009, were jointly addressing the challenges of sustainability and working to establish a pathway for China to create a sustainable aviation biofuel industry. It also announced that it had reached an agreement with China’s National Energy Administration (NEA) to further study regional biofuel development. The results will help in the efforts to establish a sustainable aviation biofuels industry in China and form a foundation for an announced renewable energy agreement between the US Trade and Development Agency and the NEA, reported Boeing.
“The recent success of our biofuel initiatives with government, energy and aviation organizations in China and around the world underscores the tremendous support that exists for the macro-economic benefits and value aviation provides through its unique ability to connect people, cultures, goods and services,” said Boeing Commercial Airplanes Vice President of Environment and Aviation Policy, Billy Glover. “Working closely with the Chinese and US energy agencies, we can reduce carbon emissions in the two largest aviation markets, while helping to ensure sustainable industry growth.”
Commented Diancheng Shen, Deputy General Manager of China National Petroleum Corporation: “Today’s successful demonstration flight shows the world that China has resolved the key technology bottleneck in the development of the bio jet fuel industry, and has established a competitive new industrial chain using non-edible jatropha as the feedstock, which is in line with China’s reality.
“PetroChina will continue to cooperate with feedstock production and processing enterprises, aircraft manufacturers, airlines, airports and related universities and research institutes to jointly promote the commercialisation of bio jet fuel in China.”
At last week’s ICAO Workshop on Aviation and Sustainable Alternative Fuels in Montreal, Professor Zheng Xingwu said jatropha was widely planted in remote valleys and mountains in the south and southwest of China and did not currently compete with crops. Another possible feedstock that has been identified as a source for sustainable fuels is the shinyleaf yellowhorn, which is widely planted in China’s northern regions.
Zheng said that despite jet fuel efficiency significantly improving at an annual rate of 2.6% between 1990 and 2010, fuel consumption had increased from 1.2 million tonnes in 1990 to 15.3 million tonnes in 2010. He expected it to increase still further to 23.7 million tonnes in 2015 and 35.8 million tonnes by 2020, although China had experienced sharp increases in the cost of jet fuel since 2003.
The annual growth rate in air traffic averaged over 15% between 1985 and 2010, with passenger numbers nearly 36 times those in 1985. During the 2011-2015 period, growth is expected to average 13%, said Zheng.