CDI Corporation

Canadian aviation industry sets sights on sustainability

A consortium of Canadian aviation industry leaders is researching the use of sustainable jet biofuel created from forest waste.

The initiative was announced at the 2015 Canadian Bioeconomy Conference in Vancouver, and recently received funding from the Green Aviation Research and Development Network of Canada. It is dedicated to investigating ways to convert waste from sustainable-certified forests such as sawdust and discarded branches into fuel.

The project is led by the University of British Columbia, NORAM Engineering and Constructors, Ltd. and the Netherlands-based SkyNRG, and has partnered with Boeing, Air Canada and other industry leaders.

Canada has 161 million acres of forest that are certified as sustainably managed, which is 43 percent of the total acres of certified forest in the world and more acres than any other single country, according to the Canadian ministry of Natural Resources. The country pioneered the method of creating wood pellets from mill and forest residues used to generate electricity, and the new aviation biofuel project seeks to convert forest waste into fuel through thermochemical processes.

Environmental benefits
Biofuel created from forest refuse has the potential to supply 10 percent, or 46 million gallons, of the annual jet fuel demand in British Columbia, according to a study conducted by UBC and sponsored by Boeing. Biofuel would also reduce the carbon footprint of Canada, decreasing carbon dioxide emissions by 50 to 80 percent compared to petroleum-based fuel, the U.S. Department of Energy reported.

“Sustainable aviation biofuel will play a critical role in reducing aviation’s carbon emissions over the long term,” said the managing director of Environmental Strategy & Integration at Boeing Commercial Airplanes, Julie Felgar. “Canada is in a terrific position to leverage its sustainable forests to make environmental progress for its aviation industry and other transport sectors.”

GARDN funding
The consortium was one of six initiatives that received funds from GARDN, as part of the organization’s larger effort to reduce carbon emissions in the aviation industry.

“These new projects, in addition to seven others that were launched last year, will drive environmental progress and achievement in aerospace through strong collaborations between industry, the research community, and government,” said GARDN executive director Sylvain Cofsky at the 7th Annual GARDN General Meeting in October.

In addition to reducing carbon emissions, objectives of the GARDN project include creating more stable pricing and ensuring security of supply for the sustainable biofuel.