Sustainability of supply or the planet: A review of potential drop-in alternative aviation fuels

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

Authors

Colleges, School and Institutes

External organisations

  • University of Sheffield
  • Department of Mechanical Engineering

Abstract

The development of kerosene-like drop-in alternative aircraft fuels can be categorised into two groups, depending on whether the product increases supply security or provides a reduced environmental footprint. This paper uncovers this relationship through a review of commercially available process technologies (Fischer Tropsch and hydroprocessing) to produce alternative fuels, lifecycle results and recent flight test campaigns, before evaluating the prospects for future fuel development. Supply may be improved through the conversion of coal (with carbon sequestration) or natural gas using the Fischer Tropsch process. Refinement of these alternative fossil fuels, however, provides comparable total life cycle emissions to Jet A-1. The hydroprocessing of biomass feedstock provides for a reduced environmental footprint - approximately 30% reduction for sustainable cultivated feedstock, when blended 50/50 with conventional jet fuel. However, securing supply is a significant issue. Considering aviation is responsible for 2.6% of global CO2 emissions, converting 6% of arable land (representing 0.95% of the earth surface) to supply a 50/50 blend, thus offsetting 0.78% of global CO2 emissions, seems impractical based upon the current land use scenario. Furthermore, ground based sectors have significant environmental footprints compared to aviation, yet require little pre-processing of feedstock (i.e. power generation can burn raw feedstock), thus presenting a better biomass opportunity cost.

Bibliographic note

Copyright: Copyright 2010 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.

Details

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)17-27
Number of pages11
JournalEnergy and Environmental Science
Volume3
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2010