Element Energy

Biofuels in aviation

Element Energy has conducted two biofuels studies for a major aero engine manufacturer.

In the first, the client wished to understand processes and production methods for biofuels, and which fuels could be used in the demanding operational environment of aviation engines. Element Energy conducted a review of the technical specifications of a range of fuels, based on publicly available research and discussions with fuel suppliers. For each fuel we assessed:

  • Whether it meets, or is likely to meet, the international standards for Jet-A1 aviation fuel: e.g. in terms of freezing points, sulphur contents etc.
  • The feedstocks suitable for use in the conversion process.
  • The likely greenhouse gas savings available from the fuel.
  • The likely short-term production scales for each supplier.

This work gave our client a clear picture of how the nascent aviation biofuels industry is developing, and allowed it to focus its fuel testing programme on the most promising types.

The second study was more strategic, to complement the earlier technical project. The client required detailed and robust estimates of the likely production volumes of aviation biofuel in the medium term (2015–2020). Our market intelligence work highlighted the production capacities of individual companies based on current and announced plants, and showed the relative balance of hydrotreated and Fischer-Tropsch fuels. We also performed an analysis of the economics of biofuel production from different feedstocks, including the sensitivity to input prices and CO2 prices and competition from other sectors (e.g. diesel for road vehicles).

Our assessment of the likely rate of growth, and our knowledge of the key players and technologies in the aviation biofuels sector, have allowed our clients to adapt their own testing and product development strategies as the industry moves to a more diverse fuel supply.