‘Green diesel’ refined from vegetable oil may be suitable for use as aviation fuel, according to research by Boeing.
Boeing researchers performed analysis that found green diesel, which the firms says emits at least 50 per cent less carbon dioxide than fossil fuel over its lifecycle, is chemically similar to today's aviation biofuel, meaning it could be blended directly with traditional jet fuel.
The company is now working with the US Federal Aviation Administration engine manufacturers, green diesel producers and others to compile a detailed research report to gain approval for aircraft to fly on green diesel.
"Green diesel approval would be a major breakthrough in the availability of competitively priced, sustainable aviation fuel," said Dr James Kinder, a technical fellow in Boeing Commercial Airplanes Propulsion Systems Division. "We are collaborating with our industry partners and the aviation community to move this innovative solution forward and reduce the industry's reliance on fossil fuel."
Green diesel is the product of refining vegetable oil either by hydrocracking – breaking big molecules into smaller ones using hydrogen – or hydrogenation – adding hydrogen to molecules.
Significant green diesel production capacity already exists in the USA, Europe and Singapore that could supply as much as 1 per cent – about 600 million gallons – of global commercial jet fuel demand at a wholesale cost that is competitive with petroleum jet fuel.
"Boeing wants to establish new pathways for sustainable jet fuel, and this green diesel initiative is a ground-breaking step in that long journey," said Julie Felgar, managing director of Boeing Commercial Airplanes Environmental Strategy and Integration.