Setting a target for 80% of jet fuel to be derived from or blended with sustainable biofuels could allow the European aviation sector to make a 60% reduction in its greenhouse gas emissions by 2050

In the study, entitled ‘Green Skies Thinking’, right wing think-tank Policy Exchange advocates the introduction of an EU Sustainable Bio-Jet Fuel Blending Mandate to be introduced by 2020, requiring a rising proportion of jet fuel to come from, or be blended with, sustainable bio-jet fuels.

And, the report claims that cultivating the feedstock required for the advanced biofuels which could be used in aviation would require significantly less land and be more sustainable than the first generation biofuels such as bioethanol and biodiesel which are used generally associated with road transport.

The report’s key recommendations are:

  • The introduction of a EU Sustainable Bio-Fuel Jet Mandate, starting from 20% of aviation fuel in Europe being sourced from or blended with bio-fuel in 2020 and rising to 80% in 2050. The report claims this could reduce EU aviation sector carbon emissions by 60% by 2050 and save the UK £37.41 billion between 2020 and 2050.
  • Minimising the cost of supplying sustainable bio-jet fuels to ensure its production cost drops to around $80 a barrel by 2030, and $70 by 2050, which the report says compared well with the average jet fuel price between 2000 and 2008 of $62.29.
  • An increase in UK support for companies conducting research and development (R&D) into producing sustainable biofuels; in particular increasing the current R&D tax credit regime to include companies researching bio-jet fuels. Along with further tax support for the sector, it claims the support would cost less than £5 million a year.
  • Charging the Renewable Fuels Agency, which administrates the Renewable Transport Fuel Obligation, with the task of drawing up and enforcing standards to ensure bio-jet are produced sustainably and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Commenting on the report’s recommendations, its author, head of the Policy Exchange’s energy and environment unit Ben Caldecott, said: “If left unchecked emissions from aviation are set to account for up to a fifth of global greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.”

He added: “We do need to look at reducing demand for flights, but switching from standard jet fuel to sustainable bio-jet fuel is currently the only viable option to significantly reduce emissions from the flights that remain.

“Biofuels in aviation can also be delivered in sufficient quantities to meet global demand – unlike biofuels for road transport.”

Feedstocks

Bio-jet fuels which are currently in use on a demonstration basis by airlines originate from biomass feedstocks including algae, as well as plants such as jatropha and camelina.

Processes including gasification and pyrolosis can be used to produce either bio-gas or bio-oil from the feedstock, and the report claims the international standards body ASTM is expected to certify planes to fly using 100% biomass-to-liquid bio-jet fuel as early as next year.