& Commercialization of
Sustainable Aviation Fuel"
A variety of candidate feedstocks have been tested and utilized across the world. All show potential in providing a steady supply of aviation biofuel.
These plants grow naturally in saline habitats. One variety, Salicornia, has seeds with an oil content near 30 percent. These plants can be fed with waste from seafood farms as part of a program to reduce the farms’ environmental impact. Commercial viability is expected in three to four years.
Jatropha is a non-edible plant resistant to drought and produces seeds with 27 to 40 percent oil content. The plant grows well on non-arable land and can potentially fight desertification in arid regions. When grown sustainably it can add economic value to developing economies. Commercial supplies are available today.
This conventionally farmed annual plant tolerates low rainfall, low nitrogen, and cold and is suitable for growing on marginal agricultural lands. It is often used as a rotational crop to restore and statbilize soil. Commercial levels of feedstocks will be available in 2 to 3 years.
Algae are simple photosynthetic organisms which can be grown in sea water or waste water. They use much less land than other feedstocks, and can recycle flue gas from other industrial processes. However, commercialization for aviation biofuel may take several years due to the need for research on less expensive processes for growing, harvesting and processing the algal biomass. Boeing helped form the Algal+ Biomass Organization in 2008 to advocate and support the commercialization of algal biofuels. In 2010 Boeing and the Chinese Academy of Sciences established the Joint Research Lab for Sustainable Aviation Biofuel at Qingdao, which is focused on developing the technologies that will make algae-based aviation fuel a reality.
Crop residue such as corn stalks, forestry residues and waste from wood processing facilities are abundant sources of biomass with the potential to be sustainably collected and converted into aviation biofuel. Additionally, perennial energy grasses or dedicated energy crops such as poplar can be grown on land which would otherwise not support food production. Although the processing technologies to convert these cellulosic biomass sources into drop-in fuels are not fully mature, there are a number of promising options which when commercialized will massively expand the scale of supply of sustainable aviation biofuel.
Large quantities of biomass and organic wastes typically bound for landfills are potential feedstocks for biofuel production. Again, the technologies to convert these wastes into liquid fuels still require some development. However this particular type of feedstock opportunity already solves one of the major challenges facing other crop-based biomass sources; that of collection and concentration, by leveraging existing waste management systems.