Aviation has always run on petroleum. In fact, jet fuel had been the same from the dawn of the jet age up until about three years ago. Then the airline industry changed international jet-fuel specifications to allow the use of renewable fuel sources. Airlines can now use renewables alongside jet fuel in a 50 percent blend. Already, as an industry, we've flown 1,500 flights with passengers—real revenue flights—with sustainable biofuels.
With our current biofuels mix, we typically get an improvement in efficiency of 1 to 3 percent. We can design out some of the impurities that come in petroleum, and we can control properties like freeze point. For very-long-haul flights at high altitude across the polar caps, you might like a fuel that doesn't freeze when you're flying at 35,000 feet. We can actually design in those properties.
We're just at the beginning with biofuels. At Boeing, we're convinced that they could significantly reduce the carbon life-cycle footprint—that's been demonstrated. We think there's even possibilities that they can reduce it all the way to zero or, in some cases, push it negative. And it can be 100 percent of the fuel, as opposed to 50 percent now—there's no impediment to making it entirely from renewables.
Billy Glover is the vice president for global business development and policy at Boeing.
This article originally appeared in the July 2013 issue of Popular Science. See the rest of the magazine here.
Yeah, Boeing is welcoming biofuels for large jets, because it's even more expensive than standard fuels at their highest prices. BUT. The difference for Boeing is that handpicked subsidiaries get to make the biofuel.. which the government then mandates for all, continuing the ethanol and associated scams for a few decades? Color me at least skeptical.
Welcome to capitalism, quasi44.
Create a minor improvement on an existing product.
Tout it as game-changing.
Pay your buddies in the government to make it mandatory.
"get an improvement in efficiency of 1 to 3 percent." That would be billions of gallons of fuel being offset. I know the military is working on this too for security and considering coal based solutions also. We simply can't keep burning fossil fuels.
Ethanol boosts octane and cleans the air. It isn't a scam. You want to breath don't you? Would you like mtbe back? I doubt it.
Both jet fuel and ethanol might be produced from somewhat green solutions. Examples may be algae or waste products to fuel. Mandating a product may force innovation and solutions. Ignoring an issue won't improve a situation.
Boeing has already gone beyond biofuels with its hydrogen powered megadrone...one that can stay aloft for 5 days!
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quasi44- In most cases biofuels can be made at a lower price point without subsidies compared to petroleum based products. Ethanol hasn't had any subsides for the past 2 years and its still around a dollar a gallon cheaper than gasoline. As jefro pointed out with the higher octane and the fact that it produces no soot its actually better for your engine and can product more HP if you turn up your compression.
As for the biofuels in jetfuel, another reason the military is pursuing it is because without the impurities in the fuel the turbine actually runs cooler, they get fewer damaging temperature spikes (from the impurities) and they get more power per gallon of fuel. So much so they actually did a study and showed that switching to biofuels could extend jet turbine life, lower maintenance costs, and allow the jets to travel further on a tank of fuel.
The technology is there, it just takes time to change over. In this case I'm glad the exec's at Boeing are taking a forward looking approach.