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Soaring Fuel Prices Spur Aviation Industry to Explore Alternatives

Rolls Royce and British Airways Announce Joint Research Venture

The aviation industry is facing unprecedented growth in fuel costs and growing pressure to curb emission levels. As a result, research programs, joint ventures, and public-private partnerships have all been launched to come up with new forms of jet fuel. Rolls-Royce and British Airways are the most recent companies to announce a research partnership to study the feasibility of dramatically expanding the use of the alternative fuels.

Jet fuel (kerosene) now ranks as the third-highest petroleum product in demand and its growth rate outpaces that of GDP. Kerosene is the current fuel of choice for jet fuel because It is widely available and can tolerate a wide range of temperatures. The demand for kerosene on the global market has caused its price to double in the last 12 months alone. Growth in demand for kerosene is being driven, in part, by a growing culture of mobility and its transportation fuels byproducts in the rapidly growing economies of Asia, but also because of the added pressure of American military fuel consumption in the Iraq war. As global energy consumption is predicted to grow 50 percent by 2050, the aviation industry is wising-up to the notion that fuel prices are not coming down any time soon.

The British Airways – Rolls Royce project asks alternative fuel providers to submit fuel samples for testing and will then draw up a list of up to four to test on a Rolls-Royce RB211 engine from a Boeing 747 (pictured above).

Suppliers that reach the ‘short list’ will have to provide 60,000 liters of fuel and demonstrate the fuels’ suitability, sustainability, and potential for mass production and global distribution to support the world’s aviation industry.

Increased R&D Activity in Alternative Fuels for Aviation

  • The U.S. Department of Transportation announced that it will finance a new competition designed to spur innovation in renewable fuels and technologies for the aviation industry. Along with the Federal Aviation Administration, DOT granted $500,000 to the nonprofit X Prize Foundation as seed money for a contest that will call on private industry to develop alternative jet fuels or technologies. The coming aviation X Prize could ultimately carry a prize purse of $10 million or more.
  • Airbus and Honeywell also announced a new project to provide one-third of aviation’s fuel needs by 2030 using second-generation biofuels made from things like vegetable biomass and algae.

Other posts about alternative jet fuels:

Other sources: The Guardian


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Written By

is the founder of ecopolitology and the executive editor at LiveOAK Media, a media network about the politics of energy and the environment, green business, cleantech, and green living. When not reading, writing, thinking or talking about environmental politics with anyone who will listen, Tim spends his time skiing in Colorado's high country, hiking with his dog, and getting dirty in his vegetable garden.


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