Biofuels for jet aircraft could be commercially viable and available in volume from 2014, according to experts at the alternative fuels pavilion here at the ILA Berlin Air Show.
Companies and airlines are making steady progress toward that goal, but there are still many obstacles, not least the question of project financing to build the plants to produce the fuel.
U.S.-Australian-based Algae.Tec is one company that could be producing jet fuel from algae in volume by then, says executive chairman Roger Stroud. His demonstration plant is up and running in Nowra, south of Sydney, Australia, and Algae.Tec is also running a demonstrator at its U.S. research center in Alpharetta, Georgia. The company’s process grows algae in a controlled environment in 40-ft shipping containers, feeding the algae nitrates and phosphorous, supercharging them with carbon dioxide and beaming in sunlight through fiber-optic cables. Algae reproduce in two hours, and are harvested continuously.
Carbon can be sourced from any industrial facility. Stroud estimates that one 1,000mW coal-fired electricity generating plant could provide enough carbon dioxide for an algae farm to produce 1-1/4 million tons of jet fuel a year.
Lufthansa, which uses 9 million tons of jet fuel a year, is in discussions with Algae.Tec, says Stroud, as the process is sustainable and does not compete with food resources. The airline insists that production should be in Europe, probably in the south as there is not enough sunshine year-round in Germany to grow the algae continuously.
Algae-Tec is currently having its processes validates by a third party, and aims to negotiate financing for its first commercial plant next year. It is studying four sites: two in the southwestern U.S., one in Brazil, and one in New South Wales.
Watch a video of Algae.Tec’s process here.