x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Options for sustainable fuel

We look for the same properties that aviation jet kerosene has today. That means looking for something consistent and thermally stable, a high energy content, a low freezing point and high flash point.

We don't want to do anything in terms of changing the airport infrastructure. We are not looking to change anything with regard to the distribution network either. We are looking for common piping, transport infrastructure and ground equipment. That means a drop-in fuel, something that is mixable with fossil fuels today. Another issue for us is sustainability - we don't want anything that competes with land, water or food.

Biomass to liquids includes forestry waste, even refuse. We see it as a future fuel at Airbus. Then there are synthetic fuels which include gas-to-liquids, which deliver improvements in sulphur content and less particulates, so it is a cleaner fuel. Hydrogenated biomass is algae and yeasts. They exist today and there has been a test flight with this, although they are currently not approved. Cryogenic fuels include liquid hydrogen. They offer a much lower energy content and an issue is availability. It also needs massive changes in terms of aircraft design and (airport) infrastructure. Another area is biofuels such as those produced from plants including camelina, jatropha and salicornia. These are potential fuels that we will use in future projects.

The future for us is definitely around algae. We get the highest yields in terms of oil from algae today. We actually see it as the future. The issue we face around it today is commercialisation. We still believe we are in the region of seven to 10 years away before we get to the stage where we can grow algae through bioreactors or from pollens. @Email:igale@thenational.ae