Brisbane Airport is becoming a green airport, engaging in an initiative with Virgin Australia to fill planes with environmentally friendly biofuel.

Gevo Inc, a renewable fuel producer based in the United States, will provide the airport with ‘biojet’ fuel. In turn, the airport will provide it to aircraft operated by the Virgin Australia Group. This will be through an alcohol-to-jet (ATJ) system planning to blend sustainable fuel with traditional aviation fuel. It marks the very first time in the country that biojet fuel will supply an airport’s normal fuel supply system.

The process starts in U.S. plants. In Silsbee, Texas, Gevo’s hydrocarbon plant will supply the ATJ. This will occur after production in Luverne, Minnesota, where the company’s isobutanol production plant operates. Indeed, the plant’s 2017 goal is to attain numerous supply contracts for a range of hydrocarbon and isobutanol products.

Simultaneously, the Queensland Government takes the first steps towards developing the state’s industry of sustainable aircraft fuel production. The fuel is relatively new, however there is decades of research behind it. Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk stated that introducing this fuel technology into the state capital’s prime airport will open up an important market for Queensland’s cane farmers and “biofuture pioneers”.

It will no doubt be an important step for the government’s overall biofuel initiative. Last year, the state signed a memorandum with the United States Navy to provide biofuel to the ‘Great Green Fleet’. It comes as part of the U.S. commitment to source half of its fuel needs from renewable sources by 2020. Although this may change with the new administration.

Biofuel for jets is currently supplied in numerous airports across the world. This includes places such as Oslo, Norway and Los Angeles, U.S.

These moves by the Queensland Government highlight the importance of achieving sustainability in aviation. The aviation sector has historically been one of the largest emitters of greenhouse gases in the world. However, the U.S. withdrawal from the Paris Agreement could be a significant blow to sustainable aviation. Though the Paris Agreement does not discuss aviation, it is inexorably linked to the International Civil Aviation Organisation’s Carbon Offsetting Reduction Scheme for International Aviation (CORSIA).

Queensland’s initiatives with biofuel will no doubt contribute to the objectives of CORSIA. The President of the International Air Transport Association (IATA), Alexandre de Juniac, said alternative fuels “can deliver up to 80 per cent reduction in carbon emissions”. He noted “governments have a role in providing sustainable aviation fuels (SAF) commercially viable. .. Investing in SAF capability will help to reduce emissions and create new opportunities for economic growth”.

These initiatives at Brisbane Airport and the partnership with Virgin Australia is therefore a welcome development. At Avlaw Aviation Consulting, we have experts that can provide quality advice to airports and aircraft fuel suppliers on developing strong partnerships.