I already posted on L.A.-based Rentech’s plans to build a $500-million jet fuel biorefinery four hours north of Sault St. Marie, Ontario, using residual crown timber. My latest Clean Break column looks at that project in more detail and against the backdrop of a coming European Union aviation “carbon” tax that will hit all airlines flying into the EU on Jan. 1, 2012.
Also, I had a chance to attend a panel at the BIO World Congress conference in Toronto this week on the challenges of producing renewable jet fuel. The panellists all agreed that producing low-carbon jet fuel from algae, jatropha, camelina and wood was not only technically doable but could be done economically. The potential problem, as one panellist pointed out, is that producers may opt first to make higher value products, such as green chemicals and nutriceuticals, which can fetch a much higher price per litre and, by association, a higher profit. In other words, we can make the green jet fuel, but will we use it as jet fuel?
So far, that’s Rentech’s intention — but will it change its mind? Either way, from a climate perspective, the end product will still presumably displace petroleum-based feedstocks, so it would seem all good in the end.
A new report from Friends of Earth is taking aim at several companies — including Canada’s Kimminic Corp. of Mississauga — for buying up land in Africa and clearing it so biofuel crops can be grown. The group claims that Kimminic has purchased 13,000 hectares of land in Ghana that will be used to grow Jatropha, which produces an oil that can be used to make biodiesel. “Non-edible agrofuel crops such as jatropha are competing directly with food crops for fertile land. The result threatens food supplies in poor communities and pushes up the cost of available food. Farmers who switch to agrofuel crops run the risk of being unable to feed their families. While foreign companies pay lip service to the need for ‘sustainable development’, agrofuel production and demand for land is resulting in the loss of pasture and forests, destroying natural habitat and probably causing an increase in greenhouse gas emissions,” according to the report. It also warns that these fuel crops are consumer water in regions that are already struggled with water scarcity.
Biofuels can be a good thing and part of the fight against climate change, but not if produced irresponsibly.
The headline speaks for itself. But here’s a link to a story in Greentech Media if you want the details. Good to see positive momentum in this area.
Those who read this blog know from past posts that I support development of biofuels as one of many climate-change solutions, but strictly conditional on how it’s made and how it’s used. Cellulosic ethanol can play an important role when we move to plug-in hybrids that still require gasoline, though to a much smaller extent. And, of course, I’m a big fan of developing biofuels as a climate-friendly alternative to jet fuel.
Air New Zealand has been making some serious progress on that front with its partners Boeing, Rolls-Royce and UOP (Honeywell). A team led by Rolls-Royce is putting a jatropha-based jet fuel through rigorous tests to further validate what preliminary data has so far shown: that the fuel meets all required specifications for commercial aviation. Once testing is completed later this fall, and assuming all conditions are met, the new fuel will be tested on an Air New Zealand Boeing 747-400 sometime in December. The jetliner will be powered by four Rolls-Royce engines, one of which will run on the Jatropha-based jet fuel. Continue reading Green jet fuel making headway, closer than thought