(Corrects that Amyris is not using an alcohol-based source for its aviation fuel project as previously stated)
Alternative aviation fuels are a key theme of this year's Paris air show, with the emphasis firmly on securing agreements to purchase large volumes of fuel and drumming up the investment needed to move towards large-scale production.
At the centre of this drive is the Alternative Aviation Fuels Showcase, which, with 16 exhibitors, is three times the size of the alternative fuels display at last year's Farnborough air show. The stand has been put together by Kallman Worldwide, in co-operation with the Commercial Alternative Aviation Fuels Initiative (CAAFI) and SIAE, a division of the French aerospace industries association GIFAS and Paris air show organiser.
"GIFAS have been terrific. They toured Farnborough with us, saw what we'd done and made alternative fuels a major theme of the Paris air show," says CAAFI executive director Richard Altman. "The French organisers have settled on this as being a major feature of the Paris air show." The display will be a global space within the US pavilion, he adds.
Kallman Worldwide president Tom Kallman says he "personally brought" the director of the Paris air show, Gilles Fournier, to see the alternative fuels display at Farnborough, and said he recognised that biofuel is changing the way we do business in the future. Kallman requested that alternative fuels be made a central theme of the Paris air show, to which Fournier "wrote back and said he agreed 100%".
Most of the 16 exhibitors are alternative fuel suppliers (see list). The non-suppliers exhibiting include the Air Transport Association of America (ATA) and Metron Aviation. "The fact that we're getting biofuel companies to move out of their element and into the air show element says a lot. It's a good leading indicator of where we're at," says Altman, who is also expecting "significant dignitary participation", including US Federal Aviation Administration administrator Randy Babbitt and US transportation secretary Ray LaHood. "The level of interest from government folks should be high."
The exhibitors all have positive stories, which they are looking to showcase during the air show, adds Kallman. "The process to take aluminium and turn it into a wing is understood, but these companies are scientists, businessmen and entrepreneurs, hanging out to shout in a room to people who haven't appreciated what they're about."
One of the stand's main goals is to attract the investment needed to scale up production of alternative fuels to commercially-viable levels. "We're not announcing the concept [of alternative fuels] - it's here and it's being purchased as we speak. These companies are out there closing multi-million-dollar arrangements with airlines," says Kallman. "The only downside is how much these guys are able to produce."
In a bid to get the investment community excited about alternative fuels, the display will hold what it is calling Investor Day on 22 June. Members of the investment community will be invited to watch brief presentations from each fuel supplier, with airlines acting as a buyer panel. The following six airlines have stepped forward to support and help to facilitate the display: Air France; American Airlines; British Airways; Lufthansa; Qantas Airways; and United Airlines.
"There is now an emerging robust investment community interested in these fuels," says Altman. "We're very hopeful we will have representatives from the US Department of Agriculture, investment banking interests from the US and their European equivalents." The aim is for the alternative fuels stand to be buzzing with activity from "a mixture of fuel suppliers, airline buyers and investment communities".
In addition to attracting the attention of investors, Altman hopes the display will lure in more buyers to sign up to purchasing alternative fuels. "The fuel community is looking at our industry as a single buyer," he says.
Peter McKenna, Kallman Worldwide vice-president strategic planning, says he is expecting "a good number of announcements during the show". One of Kallman Worldwide's key goals is to "move this industry to the next level" and secure "agreements to purchase large volumes of fuel", he adds. "We're turning up the volume, and the hope is that coming out of the Paris air show some smaller companies will have attracted the investment [required to scale up production]."
Some of the exhibitors are developing aviation fuel from alcohol-based sources, which Altman describes as the next big thing in the alternative fuels arena. "Alcohol is the next pathway after Fischer Tropsch and HRJ [hydrotreated renewable jet fuel]. We're turning our sights and research into the next pathways."
What the alternative fuels camp is missing in investment, it makes up for in boundless optimism, with Altman saying his "optimism scale has increased fourfold since Farnborough". This followed a "terrific up-tick in interest", including a speech in March by US President Barack Obama, in which he said biofuels for commercial aviation would be a priority.
"We're looking at a significant multiple of interests moving forward in this area," adds Altman, pointing to the expected certification by ASTM International of HRJ fuels combined with "a more favourable financial climate".
Echoing Altman, Kallman says: "We are small but our message is quite loud and we are going to reverberate in every corner of the globe."