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Wood-derived biofuel takes off with major airline backing

Six large companies have joined Canadian scientists in a consortium to promote the use of tree waste biofuels by airlines.

A study backed by the US aerospace manufacturer Boeing has already found that branches, sawdust and other waste from the forest industry could produce enough biofuel for 10% of British Columbia’s jet fuel demand.

The study added that biofuel, if used by ground and marine vehicles in the province, could cut carbon dioxide emissions by a million tons annually.

The new project will consider how to produce larger amounts for use at Canada’s main airports and for ground transport.
The consortium is an alliance of British Columbia University, the Vancouver engineering company Noram, Air Canada, the Canadian low-cost airline WestJet, the Canadian aerospace company Bombardier, SkyNRG, the Dutch sustainable jet fuel specialist, and Boeing.

The researchers need to perform flight and other tests before governments will authorise airlines to use the wood-derived biofuel. At present there are no target dates for reports to be delivered.

An undisclosed sum to finance the project has been provided by the Green Aviation Research and Development Network, a non-profit collaboration between the Canadian government and the country’s airline industry.

Boeing has concentrated on biofuels for several years. In 2012 it flew an airliner across the Pacific powered by a mix of regular jet fuel and biofuel derived mainly from used cooking oil – known in China as “gutter oil”. As a result it formed a partnership with China’s Commercial Aircraft Corporation and established a pilot plant at Hangzhou to produce the
new fuel.

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