Airbus, EADS and ENN make a push for new generation aviation fuels

14 November 2012

Airbus, EADS Innovation Works and ENN, one of the world’s leading Bio-Energy companies based in China, have signed a Memorandum of Understanding at the China International Air Show in Zhuhai. The partners aim to explore innovative solutions for alternative aviation fuels. The scope of the collaboration includes technical qualification of aviation fuels based on Algae Oil and the promotion of their use for aviation in China, one of the world’s fastest growing aviation markets.

In phase one, the partners are collaborating on maturity assessment of Algae Oil technology, on oil testing and analysis and on the development of tools to assess the environmental, economic and societal impact of this technology. EADS Innovation Works supports this initiative based on its expertise on new generation fuels. In parallel, ENN has already developed the production plant of Algae based oil, one of the most promising new generation alternative fuels for Aviation.

In the second phase, the objective is to plan test flights for 2013 in China with Algae Oil produced by ENN.

Airbus supports and sustains fuel tests and qualification activities including the deployment of sustainable alternative fuels for commercial flights. With this purpose, Airbus coordinates the participation of external partners in China including major engine manufacturers and Airlines.

The pilot plant developed by ENN is one of the most advanced in the world and is able to produce more than 10 tons of algae-based oil per year. From 2013 onwards, the partners will look at scaling-up the alternative fuel production process to achieve sustainable quantities of aviation fuel for flight use.

“Microalgae are considered to be one of the most promising pathways for the production of biofuels for Aviation,” said Jean Botti, Chief Technical Officer of EADS, who attended the China International Air Show in Zhuhai. “We have already proved that it is technically possible to fly with Algae Oil. Now we need to demonstrate that the industrial production of algae based biofuel is both ecologically and economically viable.”

“We are privileged to be working with ENN to determine how we can best contribute to a sustainable aviation sector in China,” said Frédéric Eychenne, Airbus’ New Energies Programme Manager. “The commercialisation of new generation alternative fuels is one of the essential ingredients in our quest to achieving ambitious environmental targets in aviation.”

“Sustainability is crucial to our environment and the global community. ENN, as a clean energy provider, and Airbus, as an energy consumer, have been striving to make sure that algal jet fuel can be delivered and used to reduce carbon emissions for the airline industry,” said Dr. Zhongxue Gan, CTO of ENN Group, “Applying algae biotechnology to produce clean energy using industrial waste, including CO2 and wastewater, is part of our carbon recycle programme. With ENN’s systematic approach, energy, environment and resources will be integrated as an ecosystem which will certainly benefit our society.”

Certain species of algae contain high amounts of oil. This oil can be extracted, processed and refined. Microalgae reproduce rapidly and create at least 30 times more organic substance per cultivation area than, for example, rapeseed. Their cultivation does not compete with food production. Algae can be grown on poor quality land using non potable or saltwater. Their main advantage is that microalgae are consuming large amounts of CO2.

The partnership agreement is one of the initiatives to develop a complete sustainable aviation bio-fuel production capability in China, using only sustainable resources. Airbus is leading an ambitious global program connecting farmers, refiners and the end user (airlines) to form regional sustainable alternative fuel “value chains”. Airbus’ goal is to have a value chain in every continent. So far, Airbus has six value chains in Latin America, Australia, Europe, the Middle East, and with the Chinese value chain, Asia.