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Biomass could provide a third of all airliner fuel by 2030.

BIOFUELS will provide up to a third of all commercial jet fuel by 2030, the European planemaker Airbus has claimed.

Much of that stock will be provided by "second-generation" fuels derived from algae and micro-organisms such as yeast and bacteria which do not compete with food resources.

The development of such fuels could significantly reduce the carbon footprint of an industry that is coming under increasing pressure to improve its environmental performance.

Laurent Rouaud, Airbus senior vice-president for market and product strategy, said: "We strongly believe in biofuels. Second-generation biofuels are very interesting. They could account for up to 30% of aviation fuel in the next 20 years."

The company is involved with several research and demonstration projects looking into biofuels, most notably with Honeywell, International Aero Engines and JetBlue Airways, studying the potential of algae-derived fuel. Airbus said it is excited by the growth speed delivered by algae and by the number of strains to be investigated.

But Airbus admitted that there were many issues that needed to be resolved before the production of algae can be scaled up to make it a commercially viable source of fuel. One area requiring further investigation, it said, was the means to harvest cells, which can vary in size from a few nanometres to a few microns.

"Today, with production at pre-industrial scale, the price of a gallon of algae-derived fuel is not on the same scale as a gallon of kerosene. Algae culture costs are likely to represent the biggest part of the fuel user price" said Airbus.

Among the micro-organisms being considered for their potential use for biofuels are yeasts, which offer two main advantages. They provide a very high accumulation yield (up to 70% weight), and industrial processes already exist for food applications.

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Publication:Professional Engineering Magazine
Article Type:Brief article
Date:Sep 23, 2009
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