BEIJING, May 26 (Reuters) - China will launch its first flight using aviation biofuel this year after signing an agreement with U.S. aviation giant Boeing BA.N in Beijing on Wednesday.
At a ceremony after the U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue meeting, Boeing agreed to collaborate on the launch with carrier Air China 0753.HK and oil major PetroChina 0857.HK, which will provide the jatropha-based fuel feedstock for the project.
Al Bryant, vice-president of Boeing’s research and technology department in China, told reporters the new fuel was expected to be commercially viable within three to five years.
“We believe in three to five years we should see a portion of fuel in commercial aviation (using biofuel), but a lot has to be done,” he said.
“We’ve proven it can be flown and it is a matter of scaling it up to make it commercially viable.”
Four test biofuel flights have already been conducted in the United States, and Bryant said China was now the focus of development because “they have made the decision to move faster”.
Aviation is responsible for about 2 percent of total global greenhouse emissions, and the entire industry aims to become carbon neutral by 2050 through the use of alternative fuels.
China aims to replace at least 15 percent of total diesel and gasoline consumption with biofuel by 2020.
It has a number of pilot ethanol fuel projects in the farming belts of central and northeast China, but it has been wary of traditional processing methods because of concerns about food security and the impact on grain prices.
After banning the use of corn and edible oil in 2006 and suspending all new licenses for bioethanol projects in 2007, China is focusing on new-generation variants processed from agricultural waste, cellulosic materials or hardy but inedible oil-bearing plants like jatropha.
“The United States relied on corn to produce biofuel but relying on crops has been criticised, and second-generation biofuels are more significant for China,” said Zhang Guobao, head of the country’s National Energy Administration. (Reporting by David Stanway; Editing by Sue Thomas)
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