Lufthansa pilots algae jet fuel plant in Europe

Lufthansa pilots algae jet fuel plant in Europe


Editor's note: Read more coverage about the race for a sustainable aviation fuel here.

Lufthansa will team up with Australian biofuels company Algae.Tec to build a large-scale plant producing aviation fuels from algae.

The two companies signed a collaboration deal earlier this week for the facility, which is due to be sited in an unnamed European country adjacent to an industrial CO2 source.

Under the terms of the deal, the German airline will arrange all of the funding and purchase half of the fuel produced. Algae.Tec will manage the project and receive license fees and profits.

Algae.Tec said the agreement forms the base for "long-term cooperation" between the two companies for "the industrial production of crude algae suitable for conversion into aviation kerosene and conventional diesel fuels."

A Lufthansa spokeswoman told news agency Reuters the plans are still in the early stages and yet to be given final approval by the Lufthansa board.

No details have yet been given as to when the plant will begin producing the fuel, how much it may cost or how large it will be.

Algae is one of a number of feedstocks being considered for greener fuels that avoid the land use change and sustainability issues of crop-based biofuels.

Lufthansa had been conducting tests of a biofuel mix during domestic and international flights, but said in January it was canceling the experiment after being unable to find sufficient sustainably-sourced supplies.

Image of algae provided by Anthony Hall via Shutterstock

In related news, aircraft traffic services company NATS has teamed up with British Airways (BA) for a four-month trial of environmentally "perfect" transatlantic flights, which could help reduce the impact of the projected doubling of European air traffic by 2030.

The first phase of the Topflight project will see 60 BA flights experiment with operational techniques such as taxiing to an optimized flight profile and continuous descent approach designed to achieve minimal emissions and delay.

It is expected that each trip will save approximately 500kg in fuel, equivalent to 1.6 tons of CO2 emissions. A previous collaboration between the two in 2010 saw a single environmentally optimized flight from Heathrow to Edinburgh save a quarter of a ton of fuel and nearly one ton of CO2.

The project, which comes under the auspices of the European Community's Single European Sky initiative (SESAR), would then look at introducing multiple "perfect" flights crossing the Atlantic simultaneously to prove that the concept is viable for the industry as a whole.

"Topflight is an exciting opportunity to prove the ‘perfect' flight concept is scalable and sustainable in an operational environment," said Patrick Ky, executive director at the SESAR Joint Undertaking. "If successful, the trial could have a profound impact on the way the aviation industry works in the future."

This story originally appeared on BusinessGreen and is reprinted with permission.