Several leading carriers from around the world are joining forces under a Boeing co-ordinated biofuels initiative, which aims to accelerate the development and commercialisation of sustainable aviation fuels.
Airline members of the newly formed Sustainable Aviation Fuel Users Group comprise Air France, Air New Zealand, All Nippon Airways, Cargolux, Continental Airlines, Gulf Air, Japan Airlines, KLM, SAS and Virgin Atlantic Airways, which claim to collectively account for 15-20% of commercial jet fuel use.
They have teamed up with Boeing and Honeywell's refining technology developer UOP to research renewable fuel sources with the aim of cutting emissions, reducing the industry's fossil fuel dependence and its exposure to oil price volatility.
Gulf Air chief strategy officer Tero Taskila tells ATI, flightglobal.com's sister premium news site: "The airlines in this group have all previously had their own initiatives and, for the first time, we have joined together as a common force. It will give us more force behind the cause, which will make it faster and we can address the issues globally."
He says each carrier will be able to assess the viability of potential fuels in their own markets from a supply and operational perspective.
"It is very important that, whatever alternative solution we have in the future, it can be produced locally. It doesn't make sense to have a refinery in Brussels supplying the rest of the world because taking the fuel around the world will create a carbon footprint," says Taskila.
Following initial discussions in January, Taskila says members of the group met in Seattle around four weeks ago and a follow-up meeting is scheduled for next month.
During this session the members will work to align their existing projects and come up with a detailed plan of how to progress.
Taskila says: "The basic target is to use biofuels and to replace fossil fuels, at least partially, in 2013."
The group has commissioned two initial studies investigating algae and jatropha-sourced biofuels' lifecycle carbon dioxide emissions and socio-economic impact.
Boeing's director of environmental strategy Billy Glover says: "This is a tremendous opportunity for leading airlines, supported by well-respected energy and environmental organisations, to help commercial aviation take control of its future fuel supply in terms of origin, sustainability and environmental impact.
"The number one priority going forward is to complete our assessment of sustainable plant sources, harvesting and economic impact, and processing techniques that can help to achieve that goal."