A techno-economic analysis of renewable aviation fuels by Australian researchers has found that, based on currently available long-term reputable technological data, biorefineries producing biofuels from microalgae, oil seeds of the Pong...
A techno-economic analysis of renewable aviation fuels by Australian researchers has found that, based on currently available long-term reputable technological data, biorefineries producing biofuels from microalgae, oil seeds of the Pongamia tree, and sugarcane feedstocks would be competitive with crude oil prices at $1,343, $374, and $301/bbl, respectively.
Sensitivity analyses of the major economic drivers suggest technological and market developments that would bring the corresponding figures down to $385, $255, and $168/bbl, the researchers said in their paper, published in the journal Biofuels, Bioproducts and Biorefining. The results of the study, which was conducted as part of the Queensland Sustainable Aviation Fuel Initiative, were presented at the Boeing-hosted Aero Environment Summit in Sydney.
The authors presented three process models for production of renewable aviation fuel from microalgae, Pongamia pinnata seeds and sugarcane molasses to produce a minimum selling price for aviation biofuel. (Pongamia pinnata is a legume tree which produces a seed rich in oil.) They assumed a production scale of 15 million gallons per year to reflect a mature, full-scale biofuels production facility.
The models and assumptions have been deposited on a wiki and are open and accessible to the community. The researchers suggested that the dynamic nature of the freely accessible models will allow the community to track progress toward economic competitiveness of aviation fuels from these renewable feedstocks.
While the research showed biofuel processes still require research and innovation to become economically viable for use in jets compared to existing fuels, the aim of the study was to identify research priorities that will have the largest impact on lowering the price. These priorities include:
delivering higher fermentation yields in the sucrose process;
producing Pongamia seeds with a higher oil content; and
developing cheaper and more effective microalgae harvesting technologies.
Market developments such as good access to animal feed markets, would also help, since the three routes could all produce high-protein meal as a by-product.
The research contributes testable numbers and models to the debate—and provides guidance on where researchers may wish to concentrate efforts to make the biggest impacts on reducing the price of the biofuel.—Dr. Daniel Klein-Marcuschamer, first author and manager for techno-economic analysis at the Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology (AIBN)
This Australian research is an important part of Boeing’s global commitment to supporting research into sustainable aviation biofuels. We’ve proven that aircraft can fly on biofuels. The next step is establishing the commercial and sustainable biofuels industries needed to take biofuels flights from demonstration to reality.—Michael Edwards, general manager of Boeing Research & Technology-Australia
The Queensland Sustainable Aviation Fuel Initiative was established in 2010 through a Queensland Government National and International Research Alliances Program grant that brought together a consortium of university biofuel experts and industry for the AU$6.5-million project. Hosted at the Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology at The University of Queensland, the initiative involves partnerships with UQ institutes IMB, QAAFI and the Centre of Excellence for Integrative Legume Research; James Cook University; Boeing; Virgin Australia; Mackay Sugar Limited; and IOR Energy.
Klein-Marcuschamer, D., Turner, C., Allen, M., Gray, P., Dietzgen, R. G., Gresshoff, P. M., Hankamer, B., Heimann, K., Scott, P. T., Stephens, E., Speight, R. and Nielsen, L. K. (2013), Technoeconomic analysis of renewable aviation fuel from microalgae, Pongamia pinnata, and sugarcane. Biofuels, Bioprod. Bioref. doi: 10.1002/bbb.1404