Could aviation Biofuels be competitive?

Today we heard that Bloomberg New Energy Finance have published forecasts suggesting that the cost of some biofuels could be similar to that of conventional jet fuel by 2018.

The International Air Transport Association stated that by 2020, 6% of jet fuel should be made up of biofuels. However, airlines might end up using only a modest proportion of biofuels in their fuel mix in the next few years due to limited availability of low cost, certified bio-fuel.

Harry Boyle, lead bioenergy analyst at Bloomberg New Energy Finance said ‘If governments want airlines to burn a significant proportion of non-fossil fuel before 2020, they will have either to subsidise advanced-but-not-yet-economic biofuels or, more likely, introduce mandates requiring carriers to use a certain percentage of sustainable biofuels in their mix, and put up with complaints that this is driving up ticket prices.’

Biofuels made from non-food vegetable oils like jatropha or camelina, or from the pyrolysis of cellulosic feedstocks, should be the first types to become competitive after the move to large-scale production. Jatropha, for example, has the potential to produce jet fuel at $0.86 (€0.65) per litre by 2018.

While European carbon credits at the moment are so cheap they have negligible effects on ticket prices, biofuels will be competitive within a decade,’ says Michael Liebreich, chief executive of Bloomberg New Energy Finance. ‘However, available volume is going to be limited and airlines will be in competition for it, so those airlines which move now are likely to have an advantage later.’

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