Boeing aircraft taking off

Chinese oil firm starts producing biofuel for aviation

China’s biggest oil refiner has begun producing aviation biofuel using technology developed in its own research laboratories, and has submitted the fuel for approval by the aviation regulator.

According to local media reports, Sinopec began research on biofuel for aircraft in 2009 and achieved key breakthroughs in 2011 that enabled it to start production at its Hangzhou Refinery by the end of the year.

The Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) will conduct laboratory performance tests, compatibility tests and test flights according to international standards to satisfy itself of the fuel’s safety before granting approval for its commercial use.

A variety of animal fats and vegetable oils provide the feedstock for the fuel, which is produced using Sinopec’s hydrogenation technology, catalyst system and production procedures. The company is said to be actively seeking new raw materials, including waste cooking oil and seaweeds.

Sinopec accounts for 70 per cent of China’s domestic production of aviation fuel.

The authorities are keen to develop a biofuel capability to serve the country’s growing aviation market while meeting its carbon obligations. CAAC is committed to a 22 per cent reduction in aviation emissions from 2005 levels by 2020.

Air China flew a biofuel test flight in October 2011 using a jatropha-based fuel produced by PetroChina in collaboration with US firm Honeywell UOP. That flight was part of a broader agreement signed in 2010 by China’s National Energy Administration and the US Trade and Development Agency aimed at developing a complete supply chain for sustainable aviation biofuels in China.

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