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Forestry Waste Could Be the New Source of Biofuel for Aviation

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Airplanes like these may soon run on biofuel from the forests.Aviation firms and scientists are researching whether waste from the forestry industry could be converted to jet plane fuel.

The project will be led by the University of British Columbia (UBC) and NORAM Engineering and Constructors. Companies involved include manufacturers (Boeing, Bombardier), airlines (Air Canada, WestJet) and fuel producers (SkyNRG). The objective of the investigation is to assess if aviation biofuel can be created from forestry industry waste, like sawdust and branches.

In earlier aviation biofuel research from UBC, backed by Boeing, found that biofuel produced from this type of waste, created by thermochemical processing, could supply 10% of annual jet fuel needs in British Columbia. This equates to 46 million gallons of fuel. This inquiry also determined that using biofuel in ground and marine vehicles potentially saves roughly 1 million tons of carbon emissions a year.

In the long-term picture, advances in sustainable aviation biofuel research will play a crucial part in reducing carbon emissions from the industry. Julie Felgar, managing director of Environmental Strategy & Integration, Boeing Commercial Airplanes, also noted that Canada “is in a terrific position to leverage its sustainable forests to make environmental progress for its aviation industry and other transport sectors.”

Currently, Boeing has aviation biofuel research projects in the works on six continents. These ventures all revolve around making efforts to minimize the industry’s carbon footprint and help protect the environment. The U.S. Department of Energy believes that compared to traditional petroleum-based fuel, utilizing sustainably produced biofuels lowers lifecycle carbon dioxide emissions by up to 80%.

This forestry waste to fuel project is being funded by the Green Aviation Research and Development Network of Canada, in an effort to further its strategy to support technologies that could decrease carbon emissions.

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