Posts Tagged ‘Boeing’
Recently I wrote about Boeing’s all-electric satellite, which might launch later this year. Not to be outdone, apparently, Airbus Group flew the first all-electric aircraft late last month, called the E-Fan.
The E-Fan is an all-electric trainer aircraft made of composite material.
Leaving jet fuel behind means there is slight hitch: at the moment the the plane can fly for about an hour on a single charge. In any case this is a pretty big deal, because the largest aerospace and defense company in Europe and the world’s leading commercial aircraft manufacturer is backing it, is planning to build the trainer in series and is also planning to use what it learns to eventually develop a regional passenger model. Read the rest of this entry »
All-electric satellite propulsion is getting a boost from Boeing, which says it is “on track” to deliver the world’s first all-electric xenon-ion propulsion satellites in late 2014 or early 2015 after meeting key production milestones on its initial 702SP (small platform) satellites.
Boeing announced that it has completed static qualification testing, verification and assembly of the primary structures for 702SP inaugural customers ABS and Eutelsat, meaning the satellites are well on their way to launch. The initial contract for the satellite was signed in 2012 between Boeing and Satmex. Eutelsat acquired Satmex in January 2014.
The four 702SP communications satellites will launch in pairs, and once in orbit, they will be entirely powered and propelled by electricity, rather than relying on rockets. The first two are scheduled for launch aboard a single SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket early next year. An all-electric satellite dispenses with heavy chemical propulsion and uses electric propulsion not only to maintain itself stably in orbit over 15 years, but also to raise the satellite from where it is dropped into orbit by its carrier rocket to its final destination in geostationary orbit. Read the rest of this entry »
There’s algae and switchgrass – now add camelina to the roster of second generation biofuel crops.
Camelina could become a major player in the realm of aviation fuels. The Bozeman, MT renewable fuel company Sustainable Oils says the results of a life cycle analysis of jet fuel derived from camelina seeds shows that the fuel reduces carbon emissions by 84 percent compared to petroleum jet fuel.
Sustainable’s research was done in collaboration with UOP, a Honeywell company, at Michigan Tech University. The study was based on camelina grown in Montana and processed into biojet fuel using UOP’s hydroprocessing refining technology.
(Click here for a description of the UOP Renewable Jet Process.)
“The quickest way to reduce carbon emissions from aviation is to begin replacing petroleum fuel with fuel made from renewable and sustainable camelina oil,” says Scott Johnson, general manager of Sustainable Oils. “The acreage that we have contracted for 2009 will be used primarily to continue to develop the promising biojet market.”
He adds that the company has planted “thousands of acres” of camelina “specifically for this use.” This will “prepare us to supply the hundreds of millions of gallons of fuel we will need within five years. No other potential feedstock can provide as much fuel in as short a horizon.”
So what is camelina? It’s it’s a plant that produces seeds that are apparently well-suited as a sustainable biofuel crop. The seeds naturally contain high oil content. Also ithe oils are low in saturated fat, the plant is drought resistant and requires less fertilizer and herbicides.
Most importantly, it is an excellent rotation crop with wheat, and it can grow in marginal land.
Camelina does not displace other crops or compete as a food source. It is estimated that the state of Montana alone could support between 2 and 3 million acres of camelina, generating 200 to 300 million gallons of oil each year.
“Camelina is one of the most promising sources for renewable fuels that we’ve seen,” said Billy Glover, managing director, Environmental Strategy, Boeing Commercial Airplanes. “It performed as good if not better than traditional jet fuel during our test flight with Japan Airlines earlier this year, and supports our goal of accelerating the market availability of sustainable, renewable fuel sources that can help aviation reduce emissions. It’s clear from the LCA results that camelina is one of the leading near-term options and, even better, it’s available today.”
Professor David Shonnard, Robbins Chair Professor of Chemical Engineering at MTU says, “Camelina green jet exhibits one the largest greenhouse gas emission reduction of any agricultural feedstock-derived biofuel I’ve ever seen.
“This high number is the result of the unique attributes of the crop – its low fertilizer requirements, high oil yield and the use of co-products, such as meal and biomass, for other uses.”
And the answer is not for a long time, at least in large enough quantities to make a difference.
Fuel is by far the biggest cost center for airlines, mainly because aviation fuel is the most expensive fuel to refine and, well, airplanes guzzle a lot of it.
That’s why the drive to develop an alternative aviation biofuel is becoming increasingly urgent for aircraft and engine manufacturers.
But even with the attention of the two largest aircraft makers, Boeing and Airbus, aviation biofuel is not exactly on the near-event horizon: Think 2025 before biofuel accounts for even 25 percent of the fuel airlines use, says Christian Dumas, vice president of sustainable development and eco-efficiency for Airbus.
“I hope we can go faster than that,” he says.
At least there’s been progress on two important fronts, says Paul Steele, executive director of the Air Transport Action Group. One is that the aviation industry has moved past any consideration of food-based alternative fuels. Instead it is concentrating on the development of second-generation biofuels using non-food biomass.
Steele also says that research over the past year has proven that biofuels are technically feasible for aviation without changes to airframes and engines.
Now the future of aviation biofuel hinges on questions about feedstock availability, especially its availability in sufficient quantities.
Bill Glover, Boeing managing director of environmental strategy, says it is “reasonable to see aviation biofuel commercially available in the next 3-5 years.” But not in very large quantities. As for significant amounts, Glover says “It depends on how you define significant.” That area is still being worked on from a technical and economic standpoint. “It’s hard to forecast a certain amount at a certain date.”
The first priority is get the right feedstocks at the right quantities and availability, said Jennifer Holmgren, Honeywell UOP’s general manager, renewable energy and chemicals business unit.
Honeywell’s stake in this became clear late last month when it launched Envergent Technologies, a joint venture with Ensyn Corp. that plans to offer technology and equipment to convert second-generation biomass into pyrolysis oil for power generation, heating fuel and for conversion into transportation fuels.
Boeing and Airbus say they are not planning to make their own alternative fuels, but are working with ethanol and other biofuel producers to make planes ready for the new technologies in the coming decades.
Also, they are not directly investing in feedstock development. Boeing is doing some “small development support to find out what’s possible in feedstock,” says Glover. “We’re in an exploratory mode.” Airbus is in the same mode.
An excess of caution? If Boeing and Airbus were to put their huge cash reserves and the weight of their technological expertise behind second-generation biomass and the feedstock needed for aviation biofuel, its ETA might change.