Sustainable aviation fuel takes off in European Union

A new Horizon 2020 project is setting out to demonstrate industrial-scale production and use of sustainable aviation fuel derived from sources including used cooking oil.

sustainable aviation fuel
La Mède refinery

Sustainable aviation fuel produced during the project will meet jet fuel certification standards and will be used by commercial European airlines in regular passenger flights.

Coordinated by Italy’s RE-CORD (Renewable Energy Consortium for Research and Demonstration) at the University of Florence, the four-year project BIO4A (Advanced Sustainable Biofuels for Aviation) will run until 2022 and will be carried out in partnership with Total, SkyNRG, CENER (National Renewable Energy Centre of Spain), CCE (Camelina Company España), EC-JRC (European Commission - Joint Research Centre) and ETA-Florence Renewable Energies.

In 2011 the EU launched the Biofuels Flightpath Initiative to promote the market development of sustainable aviation fuels and set the target of 2Mt/y of aviation biofuels consumption in Europe by 2020.

To this end, Total’s La Mède biorefinery will have a production target of at least 5,000 tons of HEFA (Hydrotreated Esters and Fatty Acids) sustainable aviation fuel when it opens in mid-2018.

BIO4A will cover all links in the value chain, from sourcing of sustainable feedstocks, to conversion into ASTM-certified sustainable aviation fuel, to blending and distribution to end-users at European airports where biojet will be distributed through standard airport infrastructure for commercial passenger flights.

The project will also investigate Camelina, a drought-resistant non-food crop that could be grown on land at high risk of desertification and used to produce biojet. By adopting a combination of biochar and other soil modifications, the research will aim at developing a cost-effective long-term strategy to increase soil resilience to climate change and fertility, while simultaneously sequestering and storing fixed carbon into the soil and producing a low-ILUC (Indirect Land Use Change) aviation biofuel from Camelina.

Prof David Chiaramonti, RE-CORD, project coordinator said: Air transport is among the most critical ones to decarbonise, a priority for the European Union together with heavy duty and maritime.

“BIO4A is a significant step forward towards clean aviation in Europe: it will bring the use of sustainable biojet ahead in terms of volume and innovation. Moreover, the research on increasing resilience of EU Mediterranean dry marginal land to climate change will open a new window to sustainable biomass production in the EU.”