Paris — The IATA Fuel Forum heard a graphic account of the challenges facing the global aviation industry as it attempts to address its rapidly rising carbon emissions through the use of biofuels.
German carrier Lufthansa described a sometimes fraught effort to put a supply chain into place to fuel one aircraft making four roundtrips a day between Hamburg in the north of Germany and Frankfurt in the south.
In the weeks to come, Lufthansa will make its 1,000th flight using a 50% blend of biojet fuel in the right wing of an Airbus aircraft.
Joachim Buse, who has led the project for Lufthansa, told delegates that it initially planned to use a Fischer Tropsche-derived synthetic oil in the aircraft.
“By the time we needed the fuel, the company concerned had gone bankrupt, which gives you a smell of the difficulties of supplying this fuel,” he said.
Next, Lufthansa sought to use jatropha seed oils, but the drought in Sudan decimated the crop. “We had offers of 200,000 tonnes of oil, but the promised fuel disappeared like ice in the sunshine,” he said.
Eventually, Lufthansa secured a blend of feedstocks and the assistance of Neste Oil in supplying a product which, after five months of storage at Hamburg airport, retains excellent quality and zero separation of components.
But Buse warned that the experience at Lufthansa is symptomatic of the enormous challenge of realizing the trade association’s own goals for carbon neutral growth through biofuels, and ultimately its goal to reduce its carbon emissions to 50% of 2005 levels by 2050.
Only five years later, for Lufthansa to be on a trajectory to achieve IATA’s 2050 emission goal, it will need to source 4.26 million tonnes a year of biojet fuel.
In a recent white paper on jet fuel management and carbon, OPIS reported that global vegetable oil production was estimated at 120 million tonnes per year, of which some 90% was used as food, and the vast majority of the remainder used in road fuels.