Commercial Aircraft Corp. of China (COMAC) and Boeing have officially opened a joint technology centre in Beijing focused on supporting the commercial aviation industry. The Boeing-COMAC Technology Centre’s first research project will explore opportunities to refine waste cooking oil, often described in China as ‘gutter oil’, into sustainable aviation biofuel.
COMAC is building the new Chinese-designed C919 large commercial jet and ARJ21 regional jet, while US-based aircraft-builder Boeing has provided commercial aircraft and services to China’s aviation industry for 40 years. The two companies announced a collaboration agreement in March 2012.
The new Boeing-COMAC Aviation Energy Conservation and Emissions Reductions Technology Centre is located in COMAC’s new Beijing Aeronautical Science and Technology Research Institute (BASTRI). It is working with China-based universities and research institutions to expand knowledge in areas such as sustainable aviation biofuels and air traffic management that improve commercial aviation’s efficiency and reduce carbon emissions.
The technology centre’s first research project aims to identify contaminants in ‘gutter oil’ and processes that may treat and clean it for use as jet fuel. Waste cooking oil shows potential for sustainable aviation biofuel production and an alternative to petroleum-based fuel because China annually consumes approximately 29 million tonnes of cooking oil, while its aviation system uses 20 million tonnes of jet fuel. Finding ways to convert the discarded oil into jet fuel could enhance regional biofuel supplies and improve biofuel’s affordability.
China is one of the world’s fastest-growing aviation markets. The Civil Aviation Administration of China has forecast that passenger traffic in China will surpass 300 million this year and will reach 1.5 billion passengers in 2030. Boeing has estimated that Chinese airlines will need to buy 5,000 new airplanes by 2030 to meet this extraordinary demand.