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Qantas Contemplates $312 Million Biofuel Plant

Australian airline Qantas is evaluating the costs and efficiencies of a trash-burning biofuel plant to be built in Sydney to stave off carbon emissions by 1.5 percent a year, according to The Australian.

The airline is working with US fuel supplier Solena to investigate the construction of a commercial waste biofuel plant, fed by food scraps, grass and tree cuttings, and agricultural and industrial waste as a feedstock for the fuel. Solena estimates that its biofuel process offers lifecycle greenhouse gas savings of up to 95 percent over fossil-fuel derived kerosene. Projected CO2 savings are 550,000 tons per year, which includes 250,000 tons from a reduction in waste sent to landfills, the article said.

It is moving to cut its carbon emissions and meet airline industry standards of an annual 1.5 percent improvement in fuel efficiency through 2020, or the UN’s 2 percent improvement standard, The Australian reported.

The Guardian reported that the fuel plant venture, expected to be announced this month, costs about $312 million to build, and would create about 1,200 jobs. A similar project with British Airways and Solena was signed for in February 2010.

Qantas is one of several leading airline carriers who have signed the Sustainable Aviation Fuel Users Group pledge to reduce the airline industry’s environmental impact.

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One thought on “Qantas Contemplates $312 Million Biofuel Plant

  1. Biofuelled or biofooled?

    The report above outlining the Qantas £200m biojet plant proposal needs a bit more analysis to enable readers to determine where on the “greenwash/breakthrough” spectrum this announcement should be positioned.

    Qantas and its partner, Solena, are investigating constructing a waste-to-jet biofuel plant in Australia but we have no idea, as yet, what this might mean in terms of reducing CO2 emissions from Qantas flights. If this Australian scheme proceeds, it could well mirror the proposed (and probably identical) British Airways/Solena plant, said to be opening in 2014 somewhere in East London, to turn 500,000 tonnes of London’s food and biomass waste into jet fuel annually.

    The East London plant could produce about 2% of BA’s Heathrow fuel needs, according to the airline. BA’s latest reported CO2 emissions from their global flight operations were 17,714,897 million tonnes in 2008 – being generous, and also assuming 100% carbon offset from this particular biofuel, BA’s emissions would perhaps therefore be 2%/354,300 tonnes less per annum when and if this plant is up and running.

    Qantas reports its CO2 emissions as about 12,500,000 tonnes in 2009, so assuming a similar waste-to-jet biofuel production quantity in Australia, Qantas might be aiming for a 2.84% reduction in its emissions.

    We understand that British Airways have made no financial investment in the proposed East London plant at all, so it cannot be described as a joint venture – company sources tell us that the airline has simply undertaken, via an exchange of letters, that if Solena can produce jet fuel that’s safe, meets industry standards and is priced competitively against everyday petroleum-based kerosene, then BA will consider buying it.

    It’s clear that both airlines would like us to believe they can slash carbon emissions. Given the recovery in the airline industry underway right now coupled with future growth projections it’s highly likely that overall CO2 emissions at both British Airways and Qantas will continue to increase. Grandiose PR-led statements appearing to knock a couple of percentage points off rising CO2 emissions are more to do with manufacturing consent for unrestrained fossil-fuel powered growth than actually combating climate change, I’m afraid.

    Jeff Gazzard
    Board Member
    Aviation Environment Federation, London

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