Consortium looks to develop sustainable aviation biofuel

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Airbus has joined a consortium including Virgin Australia to study a new method of producing sustainable aviation fuel from eucalyptus mallee trees.

Grown in Western Australia’s wheat belt, eucalyptus mallee trees are sustainably harvested and converted to a feedstock for refining into alternative aviation fuel via pyrolysis.

According to Airbus, mallee is indigenous to Australia and is a suitable sustainable crop because it helps return salt-affected land to a productive state. Mallee can be planted on farms alongside crops and contribute to the long-term sustainability of the overall farming operation.

The pyrolysis thermal conversion process has yet to be recognised by the world’s fuels standards authorities. Airbus’s role includes supporting the approval and certification process so that pyrolysis-based fuels can be used for the first time in commercial aviation.

The consortium also includes Future Farm Industries CRC, which is developing sustainable farming systems as part of the Australian government’s Co-operative Research Centres (CRC) programme.

The project objective is to have a pilot alternative fuel production plant operating in Australia in the next year. Sustainability analysis will be managed by the CRC, Airbus and Manchester Metropolitan University.

The partnership agreement aims to develop a complete sustainable aviation biofuel production capability in Australia, using only sustainable resources, and is part of the Airbus goal to have in place a value chain in every continent by 2012. So far, Airbus has value chains in Latin America, Europe, the Middle East and now Australia.