Boeing Is Offering Biofuel to Airlines for Delivery Flights

Apr 22, 2019

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Boeing has announced that it is offering airlines the option of using biofuel for delivery flights of aircraft coming from Everett and Seattle, according to Aviation Tribune. Boeing says it is working on making the option available for flights departing from its South Carolina location as well.

This new biofuel option, which could cut carbon emissions by up to 80%, is the next step in a continuing effort to make biofuel a sustainable option for the aviation industry and reduce its carbon problem. Biofuels are thought to be carbon-neutral because the carbon dioxide absorbed by the plants used to make the fuel should be equal to the carbon dioxide released when the fuel is burned. The biofuel Boeing is using is being made from agricultural waste at a refinery in Paramount, CA.

Boeing said in an emailed statement that any biofuel certified for commercial use is “fully compatible” with Jet A fuel, meaning “no modifications are needed for the airplane, engines or fueling infrastructure.” Boeing explained that this is the reason biofuel and traditional fuel can be blended together, which should help ensure faster adoption.

And faster adoption is a good thing. Currently, air travel demand is on the rise around the world. That demand is set to keep increasing for the foreseeable future. More passengers means more planes in the air, which in turn means that the overall carbon footprint of the industry is exploding.

One airline has already committed to using this more eco-friendly option for delivery of a handful of aircraft later this year: Alaska Airlines will use biofuel for three of its 737 MAX aircraft. Those planes are scheduled for delivery later in 2019, although that timeframe might be pushed back given the grounding of the MAX.

So with a new better-for-the-environment option already available and fully compatible with aircraft, why would any airline choose not to take Boeing up on its biofuel offer when taking delivery?

Although the new fuel significantly cut emissions, what it doesn’t cut is the cost. In fact, the opposite is true. Since the price paid by the airline is set by its agreement with the provider, Boeing wasn’t able to give specifics on the cost differences but confirmed that the biofuel option is in fact more expensive than Jet A fuel. This might deter airlines from choosing the biofuel option when taking delivery of multimillion-dollar aircraft.

As technology progresses, the price of biofuel will hopefully come down. Or, oil prices might rise enough in the future to make a biofuel option more appealing to airlines. With biofuel capable of cutting such a large percentage of emissions, from an environmental standpoint let’s hope that day arrives sooner rather than later. At this point, though, it remains to be seen whether or not more airlines will take advantage of Boeing’s new biofuel.

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