Green fuel touted for plane travel

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Published: Friday 6th March 2015 by The News Editor

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The team which supplies the royal family with “green fuel” for their cars and trains is launching a low-cost plane propellant which can be made from products including waste cooking oil or algae.

Green Fuels Research (GFR) is hoping its patented “biojet” fuel will help make sustainable aviation “a reality”.

Their sister company Green Fuels supplied biofuel made from waste wine and cheese to power the Aston Martin the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge took for a spin down The Mall on their wedding day, and supplies fuel from waste cooking oil for the royal train.

The company, which has a Royal Warrant for the supply of advanced biofuels to the royal family, also provided the fuel for the first bio-jet flight in 2007.

Now the Cheltenham-based team plan to roll out technology to produce biojet fuel manufactured from biodiesel, which can come from sources including non-food crops such as the plant camelina, or false flax, waste cooking oil, oil derived from algae or potentially even tobacco.

The process separates out road fuel and then omega-3 which can be used in food supplements and beauty products, while the remaining “methyl oleate” is processed to create a lighter fuel which can be used as a direct replacement for fossil jet fuel.

Speaking at CleanEquity Monaco, a conference which invites young clean tech companies to meet with investors, GFR chief technical officer James Hygate said: “We’re making sustainable aviation a reality.”

Flying currently accounts for around 2% of greenhouse gas emissions caused by human activity, and the world body the International Air Transport Association (Iata) has set a target for 6% of jet fuel to be biofuel by 2020.

“There’s a worldwide target for aviation to achieve carbon neutral growth and people to keep flying, and it’s predicted that fuel usage will move by 2020 to six billion barrels per day.

“The only way you can do that is by using a lower carbon fuel,” Mr Hygate said, adding that the only viable fuel for that today would be a biofuel.

“We’ve developed a technology to upscale existing biofuel production into biojet fuel and the reason we’re doing this is we see a big long term opportunity in biofuel moving towards aviation.”

While road transport may move away from petrol and diesel, for example to electric or hydrogen vehicles, there was “no other solution” to using liquid fuel for aviation over the next few decades, he said.

Because the patented fuel is essentially the same as traditional jet fuel, planes could fly with 100% biojet fuel in their tanks, he said, although as supply would be far less than demand, the percentage of biofuel is likely to be small.

As it could be fitted to existing biofuel facilities, and would deliver extra products such as the omega-3, the jet fuel would be low cost, he said.

Green Fuels Research is constructing a £1.2 million demonstration facility with the help of funding from the Department of Energy and Climate Change, and has plans to construct a series of its own plants.

There are also plans to roll out the technology to 50 existing biodiesel producers across the US, while it could also be used in countries such as Brazil and Indonesia, GFR said.

Although biofuels have been criticised for their potential environmental impact, Mr Hygate said there were criteria in place to ensure the products were sustainable.

Published: Friday 6th March 2015 by The News Editor

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