“Alcohol-to-jet” process being tested as an environmentally friendly alternative fuel
The Lufthansa Group has long played a pioneering role when it comes to research into sustainably produced fuels. Now the aviation group is involved in practical testing of a promising new production method for biokerosene: “Alcohol to Jet” (ATJ). It entails the fermentation of mainly plant waste to form isobutanol, which is then dehydrated and converted into kerosene using standard refinery processes. There is a wide range of suitable feedstocks. This makes the method as versatile as the Fischer-Tropsch process that is already approved, but it requires much lower initial investment. The aim is to obtain approval for the ATJ fuel this year.
Lufthansa is working with Gevo, a specialist in the production of renewable fuels, to test the new production method. The American company is providing the Group with ATJ kerosene. Along with Europe’s leading aviation group, the German army’s Bundeswehr Research Institute for Materials, Fuels and Lubricants will use these samples to carry out research into blending conventional and ATJ kerosene. The European Commission is funding the investigation as part of its Blending Study project.
“The Lufthansa Group is making an important contribution to obtaining technical approval for ATJ kerosene. We will make the results of the laboratory tests available to our partner Gevo,” said Dr Alexander Zschocke, who is responsible for the research programme within the Lufthansa Group.
Research into and laboratory testing of alternative fuels are vital for advancing their commercial use in the airline industry and thus continuously increasing the fuel efficiency of flight operations. The maximum permitted blend of renewable and conventional kerosene is 50 per cent for each engine. This will probably be the case for ATJ kerosene as well, which is why it is important to conduct research into the optimal blend ratio.
In 2011 Lufthansa became the first airline worldwide to test biosynthetic fuels in regular flight operations as part of a long-term study. At that time, the biokerosene was derived from plant oil and animal fats. Increasing the proportion of alternative fuels would improve the carbon footprint of the air transport industry.