Boeing, PetroChina To Lead Aviation Biofuel Initiative

Boeing (NYSE:BA) and PetroChina (NYSE: PTR), together with representatives of the Chinese energy sector and the global aviation industry, today announced the signing of an agreement to evaluate establishing a sustainable aviation biofuels industry in China.

The strategic assessment is the first such effort in China and will take a comprehensive look at the environmental and socio-economic benefits of developing sustainable alternatives to fossil-based jet fuels.

The project will look at all phases of sustainable aviation biofuel development including agronomy, energy inputs and outputs, lifecycle emissions analysis, infrastructure and government policy support.

The assessment, slated to begin in June, supports a broader sustainable aviation biofuel agreement between China’s National Energy Administration and the U.S. Trade and Development Agency to promote the commercialization and use of aviation biofuels in China through the U.S.-China Energy Cooperation Program (ECP), a public-private partnership.

Other U.S. companies participating include AECOM (NYSE: AECOM), Honeywell’s UOP (NYSE: HON) and United Technologies (NYSE: UTX). Air China (AIRYY.PK) and PetroChina Company, Ltd. will lead the Chinese team.

In addition, Boeing Research & Technology and the Chinese Academy of Science’s Qingdao Institute of Bioenergy and Bioprocess Technology (QIBEBT) agreed to expand their collaboration to include other research institutions and aviation supply chain entities as part of their efforts on algae-based aviation biofuel development. Boeing and QIBEBT previously announced the establishment of a joint research and development laboratory focused on algal growth, harvesting and processing technologies. The Joint Laboratory for Sustainable Aviation Biofuels will be located in Qingdao and managed by Boeing Research & Technology-China and QIBEBT, which will work together to place a strong emphasis on commercial applications for developed technologies.

Finally, Air China, PetroChina, Boeing and Honeywell’s UOP agreed to conduct an inaugural flight using sustainable biofuel derived from biomass grown and processed in China. PetroChina will provide the biomass, which will be processed into jet fuel by UOP. The biofuel flight, which will occur in China, will demonstrate the viability of the entire supply chain–from seed to flight. Additional details on the flight timing and location will be announced at a future date.

Boeing said potential plant sources being considered are only ones that don’t distort the global food-chain, compete with fresh water resources or lead to unintended land use change.

The push is now underway worldwide to develop sustainable jet fuel with lower greenhouse gas emissions. Several carriers, including United Airlines (Nasdaq: UAUA), Continental Airlines (NYSE: CAL) and Virgin Atlantic, have been testing biofuels over the last couple years. And British Airways (BAY.L) recently announced a partnership with US company Solena Group to produce jet fuel from waste biomass in London.

In March, the US Air Force tested a 50-50 blend of camelina-based jet fuel and traditional jet fuel in an A-10C Thunderbolt II.

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