By KEISUKE KATORI/ Staff Writer
The Asahi Shimbun
October 6, 2014
Airlines, universities and other organizations have started an initiative to produce and supply biofuels in Japan, with a target of having commercial flights using such fuel by the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
By April next year, the group, called Initiatives for Next Generation Aviation Fuels (INAF), will produce a roadmap summarizing the issues and measures on how to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from aircraft.
The main players are the University of Tokyo, Boeing Co., Japan Airlines Co., Nippon Cargo Airlines Co., All Nippon Airways Co., Narita International Airport Corp. and Japan Petroleum Exploration Co.
The INAF, founded in May, also includes trading firms, manufacturers and Euglena Co., a start-up company that develops products from euglena, a genus of protists similar to algae.
Central government ministries and agencies have joined as observers.
Greenhouse gases from aircraft on international routes account for an estimated 2 percent of the world’s total emissions. The figure is expected to increase, with travel demand forecast to rise 4-5 percent a year.
“We want to clear up the issues and create a (biofuel) industry to enable us to welcome athletes and spectators to the Tokyo Olympics with biofuels,” said Hiroko Nakamura, a project assistant professor at the University of Tokyo.
In 2010, the International Civil Aviation Organization set a target for all countries, including developing nations, of stopping the growth of emissions from international routes by 2020.
An essential move to achieve that goal will be switching from jet fuel, which emits carbon dioxide and whose main ingredient is kerosene, to biofuels.
Japan Airlines conducted a test flight using a biofuel in 2009, followed by All Nippon Airways and Nippon Cargo Airlines. But none of the companies has used biofuels for commercial services because of the lack of an established biofuel industry and biofuel supply infrastructure.
The recent spike in crude oil prices has been putting pressure on airlines’ management, so developing a practical biofuel would help ensure a stable fuel supply.
The INAF will create business models for procurement routes and refinery plants for promising sources of biofuels, such as city garbage, algae and nonedible plants, as well as business models for fuel supply networks.
Furthermore, the group will address legal and other issues.
Western countries have taken the lead in the use of aircraft biofuels. In the United States, the Defense Department and other government agencies are issuing grants for the development of biofuels out of concerns over fuel security.
United Airlines Inc. plans to produce biofuel at an oil refinery set up at Los Angeles International Airport and use the product for flights between Los Angeles and New York in the latter half of this year.
In London, a project has begun that combines carbon monoxide extracted from the city’s garbage with hydrogen to produce jet fuel.
During the World Cup in Brazil, players from the competing national teams were carried by aircraft running on fuel made from sugarcane.
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