carbon related

Oct 3, 2017

Virgin Australia takes on ‘green clean’ fuel role at Brisbane Airport

Making clean fuel is one thing, and Virgin is taking on the other essential of getting it into the fuel tanks

Ben Sandilands — Editor of Plane Talking

Ben Sandilands

Editor of Plane Talking

Virgin Australia’s A330-200s are leading its charge into Hong Kong and China

With the essential processes for making clean biofuels now well established, the need to efficiently distribute it to airlines is being addressed by Virgin Australia.

A Virgin Australia Group trial project will see US-based renewable fuel and chemical producer Gevo Inc supply sustainable aviation fuel, or biojet, to the supply infrastructure at Brisbane Airport.

VAH will be responsible for coordinating the purchase, supply and blending of the fuels and will work closely with the Queensland Government, Brisbane Airport Corporation (BAC), Gevo Inc and other stakeholders to implement the initiative.

The first shipment of biojet from Gevo Inc is expected to be received and used over the coming months. The biojet, which meets recognised international quality and safety standards, is planned to be blended with traditional jet fuel and supplied on flights departing Brisbane, including Virgin Australia flights, over a two year period.

The initiative marks the first time in Australia that biojet will be supplied through an airport’s regular fuel supply system and the first time in the world that biojet produced using the alcohol-to-jet process will be supplied to an airport’s regular fuel supply system.

Biojet emits lower levels of carbon emissions compared to traditional fossil jet fuel and can be derived from sustainable sources including sugarcane bagasse, molasses, wood waste and agave. Biojet undergoes rigorous safety certification testing and is already used at major airports in Oslo and Los Angeles, including for Virgin Australia’s services between Los Angeles and Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne.

Virgin Australia Group Chief Executive Officer John Borghetti said: “This initiative builds on Virgin Australia’s commitment to be a leader in the commercialisation of the sustainable aviation fuel industry in Australia. The project announced today is critical to testing the fuel supply chain infrastructure in Australia to ensure that Virgin Australia and Brisbane Airport are ready for the commercial supply of these exciting fuels.”

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk added that the initiative from the Virgin Australia Group and Gevo could also catalyse investment in Queensland’s biofutures and sugarcane industries, leading to the replacement of biojet imports.

Brisbane Airport recently  announced a major solar panel project as part of its drive to reduce the release of fossil locked carbon, which is the main driver of global warming.

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8 thoughts on “Virgin Australia takes on ‘green clean’ fuel role at Brisbane Airport

  1. Roger Clifton

    Biofuel actually qualifies as “net zero emissions” if it is made solely with carbon recently garnered from the atmosphere. In other words, it is recycled carbon fuel.

    The statement that it will be blended with standard jet fuel is a bit slippery. Yes, it could creep up towards 100% as the biofuel supply becomes more efficient. But it also could creep toward zero when the accountant finds out how much biofuel is costing the process. Some sort of certification would be necessary.

    Recycled fuel could also be made directly from atmospheric carbon dioxide in a process considered by the United States Navy for aircraft carriers to manufacture jet fuel while on station.

  2. ggm

    from the company PR site:

    Gevo will supply the ATJ from its hydrocarbon plant based in Silsbee, Texas. The ATJ is derived from isobutanol produced at its commercial isobutanol plant located in Luverne, Minnesota (the “Luverne Facility”).

    I believe the isobutanol comes from the same feedstock as ethanol does. So the feedstock could be Australian, but in this instance, it won’t be. Ethanol does not directly go to isobutanol, its an alternate bio reactor product from the same inputs (as I understand it)

    1. Dan Dair

      AFAIK, ethanol is a petrol/gasoline-replacement bio-fuel.
      Aviation fuel is much closer to diesel-fuel or kerosene.

      The source-material is essentially the same for both end-products, however, the process to ‘brew’ each of those end-products uses different processes & catalysts.?

      1. ggm

        @Dan, yes the Gevo page I found on the web, and wiki said that you do a different bioreactor model. Ethanol is a yeast process, I’m not sure what this one is, but I believe its bacterial. Yeast is in the fungi family AFAIK. (I think Gevo say its a bacterial method, much as the original butyrate work chaim weizmann did in WWI)

        But its a bioreactor flow process, so the process can reuse much of the same plant. Again Gevo say re-engineered ethanol plant.. so it looks like it a conversion exercise.

        Fuel is fascinating. somebody in the automotive section of whirlpool talked as a professional in the fuel testing business (how RON is determined) saying its a very well regulated and understood space. If you read around, a large number of chemical mixes can be made to work in a cylinder engine, and even more in a gas turbine!

  3. Dan Dair

    I’m very strongly in favour of airlines & engine manufacturers going down this particular road.
    Anything which can block the tree-huggers from their self-appointed task of preventing me going on a foreign holiday is, IMO, a good thing.
    A carbon-neutral bio-aviation-fuel is the ultimate goal, but in the interim, an aviation-fuel/bio-fuel blend is a positive starting point.

    Good for Virgin, for having the cajones to make this decision.
    I hope they market it well & generate a lot of extra bums on their environmentally-friendly aircraft seats.!

    1. Dan Dair

      I have not been equally as effusive in my praise of Brisbane airport as I ought to have been.

      They are the ones responsible for facilitating Virgin in this endeavour,
      & of course, they’re embarking upon a massive ‘solar-farm’ project which again is ‘green’ & sustainable.

      So as much as I praised VAH for this,
      IMO Brisbane airport deserves equal plaudits.! Well done them.!!

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