ITAKA: sustainable aviation biofuels

European Commission, Brazil, Finland, France, Italy, Netherlands, Romania, Spain, Switzerland, United Kingdom

Challenge

In order to reduce carbon emissions, biofuels are considered the only available option to decarbonise the air transport sector in the near future, due to this sector’s dependence on liquid fuels and its rapid rate of growth expecting to exceed 10% of the global GHG emissions in 2050. As an aircraft lifetime is over 30 years, drop-in decarbonised solutions are needed for existing fleets.

Innovation

Project ITAKA has supported the development of aviation biofuels in an economic and sustainable manner, and at the same time improved the readiness of existing technologies and infrastructures. ITAKA is an innovative project funded by the EU’s Seventh Framework Programme for Research and Technological Development. The project brought together the main actors along the value chain, from feedstock and fuel producers to fuel distributors and users such as airports and airport managers and airlines.

The breakthrough project has revealed total compatibility and better energy efficiency for airplane engines, testing biojet fuel in existing airport fuel systems and in a series of long-haul and short-haul flights. At the same time, the project has proved that flying on advanced biofuel is safe, and successfully demonstrated that biojet fuel can be used as a green alternative to fossil fuels in the same aeroplane engine and in the same airport structure.

Action

The environmental impact as an indirect outcome of this project (if the project would be applied to 2.1 million hectares left fallow (no crop) in Europe yearly) is only estimated at around 700,000 tons per year of sustainable biojet fuel (around 1% of EU jet fuel consumption) that could save 1.7 Mt CO2eq and create around 100,000 jobs.

The project confirmed very positive environmental impact of GHG savings more than 70% on a life cycle basis of the value chain and negligible particle shoot emissions due to the fuel source and handling while engine tests proved more than 30% improvement for the local air quality at airports.

For the market out-reach, the project established supply of biojet fuel through conventional logistics channels and illustrated that the declaration of its use is possible under the Emissions Trading Scheme and the Renewable Energy Directive policies.

Potential

Since January 2017, biojet fuel produced in the EU was used for the first time worldwide by more than 6 million passengers in around 60,000 flights.

Recognising that scaling up is critical for bringing innovation to the market, a new project (BIO4A) is supported under H2020 ensuring industry commitment as part of retrofitting Total’s refinery in La Méde France which has renewable fuel capacity of several hundred thousand tonnes per year. The production of 5,000- 10,000 thousand tonnes of biojet fuel within the project is supported also through take off agreements for its purchase by KLM and Air France.

Useful links

Project website: http://www.itaka-project.eu/

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