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Biofuels oil rig

Published on February 11th, 2014 | by Zachary Shahan


Complicated Relationship Between Oil Companies, Airlines, & Biofuels — But Different In The UAE?

oil rigIf you read my “Boeing Biofuel Breakthrough” article carefully, you must have noticed the bit about tar sands oil and shale oil not burning as well in airplanes. Darrin Morgan, director of sustainable aviation fuels at Boeing, noted that one nice surprise for them has been finding that biofuels, on the other hand, actually burn better.

However, Darrin noted that oil companies haven’t been keen to develop biofuels (surprise, surprise) and also don’t see the air transport market as large enough to bother trying to fix the performance problems that come with increasingly common tar sands and shale oil (or, more specifically, the chemicals that get into such oil during their production processes).

So, that’s where we left off. However, a recent email from Darrin brings to light some more interesting information:

One piece I didn’t share in our session, and is sort of the missing part of the narrative: the emerging role of Abu Dhabi National Oil Company and their relationship with Etihad. Whilst the Western Integrated Oilcos are generally not helping aviation (TOTAL a big exception, but one of the few), the reality that ADNOC *are* helping, is an important element. The synergy of those two—Etihad and ADNOC—working together to make these fuels real, whilst [Masdar Institute] leads the R&D is quite unique. There isn’t another example of that—a sovereign owner of a significant part of  the world’s oil, leveraging its economic and technical abilities to drive a disruptive technology that in the USA is seen as a polarizing political issue and is stalled, but in the UAE its simply about innovation…. Its why we are doing this in the UAE, and that is not something people expect.

Well, that’s pretty interesting, isn’t it?

Regarding the biofuel from halophytes program, Darrin notes: “We’ll have a couple milestones in the project coming in the next several months, and we’ll certainly relay those!”

Image Credit: oil rig via Shutterstock

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About the Author

is the director of CleanTechnica, the most popular cleantech-focused website in the world, and Planetsave, a world-leading green and science news site. He has been covering green news of various sorts since 2008, and he has been especially focused on solar energy, electric vehicles, and wind energy for the past four years or so. Aside from his work on CleanTechnica and Planetsave, he's the Network Manager for their parent organization – Important Media – and he's the Owner/Founder of Solar Love, EV Obsession, and Bikocity. To connect with Zach on some of your favorite social networks, go to and click on the relevant buttons.

  • Rick Kargaard

    Jet fuel is not that small a proportion of oil use. It is probably around 8%, making it the third largest use after gasoline and diesel fuel. Certainly enough for any business man to pay attention.
    I think the statement (airline companies aren’t a big enough portion of oil companies’ business in order to get that attention.) by Darrin Morgan, diverts attention away from the huge contribution to GHGs by airlines and military.Water vapor injected into the upper atmosphere is not the least of these.
    There is always spin with corporate types whether they be oil company execs or or their green competition.

    • Zachary Shahan

      Yeah, I have a hard time believing they aren’t a big enough market to pay attention to. However, he has said this repeatedly, and seems very genuine about it. I guess oil companies could simply say, “hey, this is how we can get oil now — tar sands & shale — sorry.”

      • A Real Libertarian

        “I guess oil companies could simply say, ‘hey, this is how we can get oil now — tar sands & shale — sorry.’ ”

        Just come out with the truth?

        Zachary, you should be more considerate of other peoples allergies.

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