Airbus, EADS, ENN partner on biojet in China

By Erin Voegele | November 21, 2012

Airbus and EADS Innovation Works, both of which are divisions of parent company EADS, have signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Chinese bioenergy company ENN. Under the MOU, the companies intend to explore innovative solutions for alternative aviation fuels, including the technical qualification of algae aviation fuels and the promotion of their use in China, one of the world’s fasting growing aviation markets.

According to information released by EADS, phase one of the agreement will focus on a maturity assessment of algae oil technology, including oil testing and analysis, and the development of tools to assess the environmental, economic and societal impacts of algae technology. During the second phase of the agreement, the group intends to plan test flights in China using fuel derived from algae oil produced by ENN. The test flights are expected to begin in 2013.

“We believe the research achievements on microalgae based aviation fuels would take significant positive impact on accelerating the saving and conservation work and climate change combat of the aviation sector in China.” says Gan Zhongxue, chief technical officer of ENN.

ENN has already been active in algae production. According to the company’s website, its algae technology is focused on growing algae using emissions from coal-fired power plants and factories. Sunlight is utilized for both photosynthesis, and to generate electricity via solar panels to power the process. Information published by ENN specifies that the algae has, to date, been used to produce biodiesel.

ENN’s algae work has been completed at its experimental center near Beijing. According to EADS, ENN’s pilot plant is one of the most advanced in the world and can produce more than 10 tons of algae oil per year. Starting in 2013 and beyond, the companies plan to scale-up the process to produce aviation fuel for use in flight testing.

“We are privileged to be working with ENN to determine how we can best contribute to a sustainable aviation sector in China,” said Frédéric Eychenne, Airbus’ new energies program manager. “The commercialization of new generation alternative fuels is one of the essential ingredients in our quest to achieving ambitious environmental targets in aviation.”