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Delayed biofuel approval expected by August
March 28, 2011
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  • By Graham Warwick
    March 25, 2011

    Approval of biofuels for use in commercial aircraft is now expected by August, a glitch in fuel testing having pushed back a final vote on the new specification by the aviation fuels subcommittee of standards developer ASTM International.

    Germany’s Lufthansa and Brazil’s TAM are waiting for the approval to launch the first biofuel-powered scheduled services, between Frankfurt and Hamburg and Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo, respectively.

    Lufthansa had planned to begin service in April, but biofuel approval was delayed after unexpected results from fuel testing led to several negative votes at the ASTM subcommittee meeting in December.

    The anomalous results proved to be caused by contamination of kerosene jet fuel used in the tests, and not the biofuel. “The issue was not with bio-SPK [synthetic paraffinic kerosene], but contamination of petroleum jet fuel,” says Darrin Morgan, Boeing’s director of biofuel strategy.

    “There was an unfortunate mistake in the testing protocol. They were supposed to test for contamination, and did not. It was not in any way related to bio-SPK,” he says.

    The tests are to be repeated by the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory using fuel supplied by Honeywell company UOP. The test report is scheduled to be submitted to the fuels subcommittee in June, in the hope that the negative votes will be withdrawn.

    Even if the report is not ready in time, there is a process in place to move forward with approval of biofuels, says Paul Steele, executive director of the Air Transport Action Group, which is pushing for use of biofuels to reduce aviation’s carbon footprint.

    If the standard for bio-SPK, also called hydrotreated vegetable oil (HVO) or hydrotreated renewable jet (HRJ) fuel, is voted through in June, the fuels should be approved for use in aircraft by August, says Paul Nash, director of new energies for Airbus.

    Date: 2011-03-25