A coalition of international business aviation organizations marked a milestone in the development of sustainable alternative jet fuels (SAJF) Jan. 17, 2019, at Van Nuys Airport (VNY), the busiest general aviation airport in the nation.
The demonstration was promoted as Business Jets Fuel Green: A Step Toward Sustainability.
The day-long series of events included demonstration flights conducted by business aircraft, establishing Van Nuys Airport as the first general aviation airport in the U.S. to offer SAJF on a trial basis, according to organizers, who added the event serves as a model for offering the fuels at other airports.
“As one of the world’s busiest general aviation airports – with 231,000 annual operations supporting diverse private, business and government aviation needs – Van Nuys Airport is committed to leading the way in environmental sustainability,” said Van Nuys Airport Association (VNAA) President Curt Castagna. “The airport’s four fixed-base operators participating in this initiative exemplify the Van Nuys Airport Association’s long history of building collaborative partnerships among industry, business and community stakeholders to achieve meaningful progress and change. We are honored to play a key role in advancing the use of sustainable alternative fuels and reducing greenhouse gas emissions from aircraft at airports across the nation.”
According to organizers, the trial flights demonstrated three key points:
- SAJF are safe and do not impact aircraft performance.
- SAJF offer great impact and benefits to the airport and the community, including reduced particulate matter.
- SAJF reflect the commitment by business aviation to aircraft carbon reduction.
The SAJF used in the demonstration was produced by Gevo through a number of sustainable sources like molasses, wood waste, and agricultural products. The concentrated product was then blended by Avfuel with petroleum-based jet fuel and tested the fuel for quality and to ensure it met ASTM D1655 standards.
“In our production process, not only do we produce renewable jet fuel, we also can produce large quantities of protein for the food chain and even sequester carbon in the soil,” said Dr. Patrick Gruber, Gevo CEO. “In fact, for every barrel of bio jet fuel produced by Gevo, we could produce approximately 420 pounds of protein and sequester up to 60 pounds of carbon back into the soil.”
“We are planning on expanding our plant in Luverne, Minnesota, to make it capable of producing nearly 10 million gallons per year of our sustainable alcohol-to-jet fuel, and we are putting plans in place for additional sustainable alcohol-to-jet fuel production plants that could even use wood as a feedstock,” he continued.
Avfuel officials note the company is committed to helping the industry achieve its goals of carbon neutrality, adding they were pleased with the demonstration, “which proves that SAJF can become a viable option for the industry at large.”
“We are working ardently to secure further sources of the product to champion one of the largest hurdles yet to the initiative, availability,” said Keith Sawyer, Avfuel’s manager of alternative fuels. “We’re also working with operators who can help us support this initiative by making commitments for the SAJF product — commitments that will drive demand and, hopefully, the supply of the fuel at the production level.”
In 2016, World Fuel Services, in partnership with World Energy, became the first to deliver commercially viable SAJF to the aviation industry, and after three years remains the only large-scale distributor, notes Steve Drzymalla, senior vice president of Business Aviation Bulk Fuel at World Fuel.
“Since that time, we have delivered nearly 500,000 gallons of SAJF to business aviation and over 13 million gallons to commercial customers,” he said. “We are proud to partner with World Energy, whose Paramount, California, refinery is the U.S.’s first and only fully operational, consistent producer of SAJF. Events like today are critical to developing awareness and increasing industry momentum and investment.”
World Energy’s SAJF has been independently certified to reduce emissions in excess of 60% relative to petroleum Jet-A, added Bryan Sherbacow, CCO of World Energy.
“Importantly, turbine criteria pollutants are significantly lowered in a flight’s life-cycle, primarily upon takeoff and landing, providing local solutions to airport communities such as Van Nuys,” he said.
“Our industry is uniquely poised to make a huge, positive difference in the fight against climate change – not by changing how much we fly, but by changing how we fuel. SAJF will enable a future of clean, efficient propulsion in business aviation: their advantages are real and current – we can benefit from the regular use of SAJF not just in our lifetime, but immediately, starting today,” said David Coleal, president of Bombardier Business Aircraft and chair of the General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA) Environment Committee. “We commend the Van Nuys Airport community for their historic leadership in not only making SAJF accessible for operators, but also for providing an example for other airports to follow. This is how meaningful change begins.”