A two-year study, commissioned in 2012 by Airbus and its partners, including Virgin Australia to validate the interest of the use of the Australian mallee (a family tree of eucalyptus) for the production of aviation biofuel for aircraft passengers, ended with encouraging results.
The report published by Future Farm Industries Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) confirms that aviation fuel based on the mallee meet the strict sustainability criteria established by the Roundtable on Sustainable Biomaterials (SNR) and, according to the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM), is used for commercial flights.
The analysis of sustainability and life cycle focused on the cultivation and harvesting of mallee, and its conversion into aircraft biofuel quality through thermal processes and recovery obtained by pyrolysis developed by Dynamotive and IFP Energies nouvelles (IFPEN). The mallee is perfectly adapted to poor soils and do not compete directly with water or food production. The study covered the vast Great Southern region of Western Australia, and has focused mainly on the viability of the entire supply chain for the industry, from the farmer to the end user.
“What this report shows is that the mallee can be advantageous in the future for farmers and regional communities economic solution, and the establishment of a viable industry is possible by 2021,” said Dr. . John McGrath, Research Director of the CRC. “The mallee coexists well with agriculture and livestock and can protect or optimize biodiversity and help rebalance the groundwater.”
According to the study, if all flights from Perth Airport using biofuel made from mallee locally sourced, emissions could be reduced by at least 40 percent.
“Virgin Australia remains committed to supporting the innovative research program launched in Australia on the feasibility of aviation biofuel and reducing emissions of greenhouse gas emissions in the country,” said for his part Merren McArthur, Virgin Australia Regional Airlines Group Executive. “The results of the study indicate that aviation fuel based mallee is more sustainable than that provided by fossil fuels products currently optional and provide valuable information on potential new supply chains. We are pleased to support this project that allows us to move towards commercial availability of biofuel in Western Australia.”
“The findings of this report are positive and support the overall corporate strategy focused on identifying the best local solutions for the development and commercialization of sustainable aviation fuels. Since 2008, Airbus participates in a program global development solutions, and this report is an important step towards achieving the goals has set the industry to achieve carbon neutral growth, “commented Frédéric Eychenne, New Energies Program Manager of Airbus.