MASBI makes recommendations to expedite biojet development

By Erin Voegele | July 03, 2013

The Midwest Aviation Sustainable Biofuels Initiative recently issued a report, finding that advanced biofuels offer the commercial aviation industry a clear path forward towards a cleaner, more economic, secure source of energy. 

The report, titled “Fueling a Sustainable Future for Aviation,” was produced after a yearlong analysis of the benefits that could be delivered from a robust sustainable aviation biofuels industry in the Midwest. 

While progress has been made in the development of aviation jet fuel, including its use on more than 1,500 commercial flights, the MASBI coalition agrees more must be done to enable production of cost-competitive advanced biofuels on the commercial scale. 

Within the report, the coalition makes several recommendation related to research and development activities, production, financing, policy and sustainability.

In regard to research and development, the MASBI recommends action is taken to improve feedstock production capacity via agricultural innovation. The group also recommends that feedstocks be tailored to biojet production and that advanced cellulosic technologies be developed. 

To speed the path to production, the group recommends that the process to gain ASTM and U.S. EPA approvals for fuels is expedited, in part through efforts to generate needed data at a faster rate. The report also states that producers should be encouraged to produce renewable diesel in addition to biojet in an effort to improve the supply of biobased jet fuel and improve the economics of its production. 

Under the heading of financing, the coalition urges actions to balance the risk and reward for early adopters. For example, airlines could implement innovative pricing structures and long-term offtake agreements while investors could require lower cost of capital on investments. In addition, feedstock providers could enter into agreements with better than market pricing while fuel producers could consider alternative margins. Stakeholders could also demonstrate industry demand with fuel purchase guidelines. The group also recommends that stakeholders in the aviation industry could collaborate with other biofuel consumers to create a pool of capital to invest in biofuels. 

Regarding policy, the MASBI report specifies that longer-term policies could help enable investment and production, and that allowing master limited partnership (MLP) investment in biofuels would help level the playing field with petroleum. The coalition also recommends that the Defense Production Act be fully funded and that municipal and state policy support the development of regional demonstration facilities. 

Finally, the group said that sustainability standards and certifications consistent with those already internationally recognized should be implemented. 

“The same cooperation and shared sense of purpose that produced MASBI’s recommendations are a hopeful sign that parties across the aviation fuel supply chain can produce a thriving biofuels industry,” said Seth Snyder, biofuels technology manager and section leader for Argonne National Laboratory. 

Founding members of MASBI include United Airlines, Boeing, Honeywell’s UOP, the Chicago Department of Aviation and the Clean Energy Trust. An advisory council of more than 40 public and private organizations is chaired by Argonne National Laboratory.