Category Archives: Jet fuel

Why Airlines Keep Pushing Biofuels: They Have No Choice

Repost from The New York Times

Why Airlines Keep Pushing Biofuels: They Have No Choice

By  Jonathan Fahey & Scott Mayerowitz, AP Business, July 21, 2015, 12:52 P.M. E.D.T.
FILE - In this Jan. 30, 2009 file photo, a Japan Air Lines staffer checks the biofuel-loaded No. 3 engine of Japan Airlines Boeing 747-300 before a demo flight at Tokyo International Airport in Tokyo. Using blend of 50 percent biofuel and 50 percent traditional Jet-A jet (kerosene) fuel, JAL conducted an hour-long demonstration flight. Many in the industry believe that without a replacement for jet fuel, growth in air travel could be threatened by forthcoming rules that limit global aircraft emissions. Photo: Itsuo Inouye, AP / AP
FILE – In this Jan. 30, 2009 file photo, a Japan Air Lines staffer checks the biofuel-loaded No. 3 engine of Japan Airlines Boeing 747-300 before a demo flight at Tokyo International Airport in Tokyo. Using blend of 50 percent biofuel and 50 percent traditional Jet-A jet (kerosene) fuel, JAL conducted an hour-long demonstration flight. Many in the industry believe that without a replacement for jet fuel, growth in air travel could be threatened by forthcoming rules that limit global aircraft emissions. Photo: Itsuo Inouye, AP / AP

NEW YORK — The number of global fliers is expected to more than double in the next two decades. In order to carry all those extra passengers, airlines are turning to a technology very few can make work on a large scale: converting trash into fuel.

They have no other choice.

As people in countries such as China, India and Indonesia get wealthier they are increasingly turning to air travel for vacation or business, creating an enormous financial opportunity for the airlines. The number of passengers worldwide could more than double, to 7.3 billion a year, in the next two decades, according to the International Air Transport Association.

But many in the industry believe that without a replacement for jet fuel, that growth could be threatened by forthcoming rules that limit global aircraft emissions.

“It’s about retaining, as an industry, our license to grow,” says Julie Felgar, managing director for environmental strategy at plane maker Boeing, which is coordinating sustainable biofuel research programs in the U.S., Australia, China, Brazil, Japan and the United Arab Emirates.

Cars, trucks and trains can run on electricity, natural gas, or perhaps even hydrogen someday to meet emissions rules. But lifting a few hundred people, suitcases and cargo 35,000 feet into the sky and carrying them across a continent requires so much energy that only liquid fuels can do the trick. Fuel from corn, which is easy to make and supplies nearly 10 percent of U.S. auto fuel, doesn’t provide enough environmental benefit to help airlines meet emissions rules.

“Unlike the ground transport sector, they don’t have a lot of alternatives,” says Debbie Hammel, a bioenergy policy expert at the Natural Resources Defense Council.

That leaves so-called advanced biofuels made from agricultural waste, trash, or specialty crops that humans don’t eat. United Airlines last month announced a $30 million stake in Fulcrum Bioenergy, the biggest investment yet by a U.S. airline in alternative fuels. Fulcrum hopes to build facilities that turn household trash into diesel and jet fuel.

FedEx, which burns 1.1 billion gallons of jet fuel a year, promised Tuesday to buy 3 million gallons per year of fuel that a company called Red Rock Biofuels hopes to make out of wood waste in Oregon. Southwest Airlines had already agreed to also buy some of Red Rock’s planned output.

These efforts are tiny next to airlines’ enormous fuel consumption. U.S. airlines burn through 45 million gallons every day. But airlines have little choice but to push biofuels because the industry is already in danger of missing its own emissions goals, and that’s before any regulations now being considered by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and international agencies.

The industry’s international trade group has pledged to stop increasing emissions by 2020 even as the number of flights balloons. By 2050, it wants carbon dioxide emissions to be half of what they were in 2005.

Like airlines, the U.S. military is also supporting development of these fuels for strategic and financial reasons. For biofuels makers, it is a potentially enormous customer: The military is the biggest single energy consumer in the country.

Making biofuels at large, commercial scale is difficult and dozens of companies have gone belly up trying. The logistics of securing a steady, cheap supply of whatever the fuel is to be made from can take years. Financing a plant is expensive because lenders know the risks and demand generous terms. A sharp drop in the price of crude oil has made competing with traditional fuels on price more difficult.

The airlines are now seeing some of these difficulties up close. A United program to power regular flights between Los Angeles and San Francisco with fuels made from agricultural waste was delayed when the fuel producer, AltAir, had trouble retrofitting the existing refinery. The companies now say the flights should begin in August. Red Rock’s planned deliveries to Southwest have also been pushed back, to 2017 from 2016, and construction of the plant has not yet started.

But many in the industry say they are not surprised, or daunted, by the time and effort it will take to bring large amounts of biofuels, at competitive prices, to market.

“We really are trying to create a brand new fuel industry,” says Boeing’s Felgar. “We’ve always known this is a long term play, and our industry is long term.”

And if any industry is going to crack fuel from waste on a big scale, the airline industry might be the best bet.

Instead of having to build the infrastructure to distribute and sell these fuels at hundreds of thousands of gas stations, jet fuel only has to be delivered to a small number of major airports. For example, nearly half of United’s passengers fly through its five hubs in Houston, Chicago, Newark, San Francisco and Denver.

Still, after the many disappointments that have plagued biofuel development, few want to promise an imminent biofuel revolution. “I’m not Pollyannaish about this,” says Felgar. “I’m not optimistic, I’m not pessimistic, but I’m determined.”

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    Delta Airlines enters Bakken crude-by-rail business

    Repost from UPI.com Business News

    Delta sources Bakken crude for Pennsylvania refinery

    Deal accounts for one third of refinery’s capacity.
    By Daniel J. Graeber   |   July 21, 2014

    Delta Air Lines and the Delta Connection carriers offer service to nearly 370 destinations on six continents. For more information visit news.delta.com.

     

     

    ATLANTA, July 21 (UPI) —A subsidiary of Delta Air Lines said Monday it signed a five-year deal to send 65,000 barrels of Bakken crude oil per day to its refinery in Trainer, Pa.

    Delta subsidiary Monroe Energy signed the deal with midstream energy company Bridger LLC to supply about 30 percent of the crude oil refined daily at the Trainer facility. The crude oil would be sourced primarily from the Bakken reserve area in North Dakota, which the company says is cheaper than oil imported from overseas markets.

    “Supplying a third of the crude refined at Trainer from the Bakken further reduces the overall cost of fuel for Delta,” Graeme Burnett, a senior vice president for fuel optimization for Delta and chairman of Monroe, said in a statement.

    Bridger is a midstream company that recently invested $200 million on railcars, which are said to exceed current safety standards for crude oil transportation.

    There’s not enough pipeline capacity in the United States to handle the glut of oil, forcing some companies to rely on rail as an alternative transit method.

    A federal warning in early 2014 said Bakken crude oil may be more prone to explosion than other grades if involved in a derailment. The 2013 derailment of a train carrying Bakken oil in Lac-Megantic, Quebec, left more than 40 people dead.

    Increased crude oil production has sparked calls for U.S. exports, though Burnett told U.S. lawmakers more exports of U.S. crude would mean more imports for some markets, which would lead to higher global oil prices.

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      Latest derailment: Brockville, Ontario

      Repost rom The Toronto Star

      Brockville train derailment ‘could have been a lot worse’

      CN train skipped the tracks outside town, with empty tankers that carried only residue of jet fuel.
      By: Jessica McDiarmid, July 10 2014
      Cars lie all over the tracks outside Brockville, after an early-morning derailment on Thursday.
      Cars lie all over the tracks outside Brockville, after an early-morning derailment on Thursday. Transportation Safety Board

      The photos show a dozen black tank cars thrown from the rails and tossed to each side. Crushed vehicles spew from two automobile carriers; empty platform cars lie crippled in the grass beside the tracks.

      The Canadian National freight train that skipped the rails in Brockville, Ont., early Thursday morning shut down the major rail artery east from Toronto, forcing passenger service Via Rail to cancel trains between Union Station and both Ottawa and Montreal. The company brought in buses to transport some 3,600 people booked to travel on the 29 trains scheduled for the day.

      Local officials said the train was travelling at about 100 km/h when it careened off the tracks about 115 kilometres south of Ottawa. The 26-car derailment occurred beside a golf course on the western edge of the community of 40,000.

      It’s an unpopulated area; there were no injuries.

      The derailment happened just after 4 a.m. Thursday, said CN spokesperson Lindsay Fechyshyn. The train was eastbound when it jumped the tracks shortly before it would have entered the town, where the rails rub up against a hospital, schools and residential neighbourhoods.

      “It could have been a lot worse than it was,” Elizabethtown-Kitley Township fire chief Jim Donovan told the local newspaper, the Recorder and Times.

      Of the derailed cars, 13 were tankers that had carried highly flammable aviation fuel, but were currently empty.

      “They’re not full, but they would have some residue,” said Fechyshyn. It didn’t appear there had been any leaks or spills, she said. Two of the cars were carrying automobiles, five were carrying carbon powder — commonly used in water filtration systems — and six were empty platform cars.

      Fechyshyn added that it was too early to speculate on the cause of the derailment. The Transportation Safety Board (TSB) is investigating.

      Coming just days after the sombre one-year anniversary of the catastrophic derailment in Lac-Megantic, which left 47 people dead and the town’s core decimated, the incident prompted a chorus of what-if’s among critics of Canada’s rail safety program and recent measures purported to improve it.

      “It is only a matter of time before we see another Lac-Megantic,” said Michael Butler, a campaigner with the Council of Canadians who regularly blogs about rail safety issues. “I don’t feel this is hyperbole or alarmist … The nature of our railway industry — and its cargo — has changed, but the regulations which are supposed to be in place to protect our communities and environment seem to be stuck in the last century.”

      According to TSB data, rail accidents are on the decline. But the materials involved in those accidents are changing, though precisely how remains murky.

      Transport Canada has ordered rail companies to share historical, aggregate information with local emergency officials on the types of dangerous goods transported through their communities. But that data will only be released under a strict veil of secrecy.

      In the GTA, which is traversed by both CN and CP main lines, residents and municipal politicians have protested, arguing that people who live alongside the tracks have the right to know what passes by their homes. A Star investigation found that, over two 12-hour periods alone, hundreds of tankers carrying crude oil, radioactive material and toxic chemicals trundled through Toronto.

      Shipments of volatile crude oil have risen dramatically. Figures provided by Transport Canada, which regulates federal railroads, showed that nearly 128,000 carloads of crude moved in Canada in 2013, compared with about 53,000 the year before. In 2009, only 144 carloads of crude were shipped.

      But it’s unclear what quantities of other dangerous goods — materials such as chlorine, ammunition, radioactive materials — are transported in the country.

      Transport Canada previously told the Star that about 600,000 carloads of dangerous goods were moved by Canada’s two major carriers, Canadian National and Canadian Pacific, in 2013. But on Thursday the department wouldn’t provide yearly totals for the preceding four years, citing a Canada Transportation Act section that prohibits releasing statistics that could be related to an individual carrier because the information is “commercially sensitive.”

      Earlier questions about particular types of dangerous goods were met with the same response.

      In 2013, there were 1,067 accidents, slightly up from the 1,011 reported in 2012, according to the TSB. Dangerous goods were involved in 144 of those incidents, an increase from 119 the previous year, as well as from the five-year average of 133.

      Seven accidents resulted in a dangerous-goods release, more than double the five-year average of three. Five of the seven were crude oil.

      “This increase is concurrent with an increase in shipments of crude oil by rail,” the TSB notes in its annual statistical summary.

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