Interest in alternative aviation fuels has grown since the last Paris air show as a result of increased support from airlines, formal certification and a better financing environment, said panelists at a forum on alternative fuel developments on 17 June at the Alternative Fuels Pavillion.
"We are more clearly in the mode of commercialisation," says Richard Altman, executive director emeritus of the Commercial Aviation Alternative Fuels Initiative on the sidelines of the Paris Air Show.
This year, the organisation has unveiled a guide for suppliers to sell non-petroleum alternative aviation fuels to airlines, which is authored by Airlines for America vice-president and chief economist John Heimlich and Bruno Miller, principal analyst, energy and environment at Metron Aviation.
The projected environmental benefits of biofuels are well-documented, but airlines are interested in the fuels for additional reasons, says the paper. Diversifying the supply chain for fuels in a volatile petroleum fuel market is one - airlines' fuel bills were about 35% of passenger costs last year and the highest operating cost they face.
Alternative fuels gained official certification from the American Society for Testing and Materials shortly after the 2011 Paris air show, and since then, airlines have increased their commitments to researching the technology, says Altman. One of the biggest recent deals on this front is United Airlines committing to purchase 15 million gallons of biofuels to power flights out of Los Angeles.
Earlier this month, IATA endorsed a resolution to implement a plan to achieve carbon-neutral growth from 2020 and a 50% reduction in net emissions by 2050 from a 2005 baseline.
Despite these developments, alternative fuel companies still face challenges, such as determining the best alternative fuels to use in different regions around the world.
"We need to come up with local solutions for them," says Lukas Rohleder, spokesperson for the Aviation Initiative for Renewable Energy in Germany.
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