Aircraft traffic has large environmental impacts which must be managed to achieve more sustainable transport. One way of reducing environmental impacts from flying is to develop commercially viable biofuels for aircraft. Managing this challenge may result in a reduction of carbon emissions as well as waste.
Karlstad Airport, owned by the municipality of Karlstad (Sweden), collaborated with the Paper Province, Statoil Fuel & Retail Aviation, SkyNRG Nordic and the International Air Transport Association (IATA). The collaboration aimed to develop the first European station for biofuels for aircraft; a version of bio-substitution for fossil fuels in the aviation industry, thereby reducing CO2 emissions. With a public grant partial funding for demonstration, the project demonstrated the first Swedish scheduled flights using biofuel in June 2014, and also the first European station for environmentally friendly jet fuel. At the end of the year, all aircrafts leaving Karlstad Airport will run on biofuel, contributing to more sustainable traveling. Karlstad Airport will thus have the first operational tank facility supplying sustainable jet fuel to all commercial flights departing from one single airport.
Using biofuels for airplanes has been tested over several years and today's aircraft can fly with a fuel mixture of 50% fossil fuel and 50% biofuel without modification. The barriers, however, have been the availability of raw material for fuel production, the pace of technology development, lacking demand for biofuels, and higher cost of biofuels. This high price is mainly caused by the limited number of producers, who produce on a small scale. The biofuel currently used in Karlstad airport is produced from used cooking oil. In order to stimulate the use of more environmentally friendly jet fuels through strategic planning, a carbon reduction fund for sustainable fuels has been launched. The money in the fund initially covers the difference between fossil jet fuel and biojetfuel. The interest in the fund is high and everyone from businesses, public organizations and individuals can contribute to the fund. In the long term, the fund may support further research on the production of biofuels for aviation.
Why did it work?
Since 2009 there have been certified biofuels for use in commercial aviation, but not in a large scale such as in the project at Karlstad Airport. The project managed to build the tank facility with the help of motivated individuals and cross-organizational collaboration, enhancing the sharing of expertise. Furthermore, as the airport is municipally-owned, it benefitted from the high environmental standards and requirements set by Karlstad municipality.
To meet the challenges posed by scarcity of raw materials available for biofuel production, a feasibility study is undertaken to investigate the possibilities for using feedstock from the local forestry industry for production of sustainable jet fuel. The study is supported by the strong regional pulp and paper industry around Karlstad, especially through the 100 companies included in the cluster the Paper Province.
Thanks to their new approach, Karlstad Airport is now a more sustainable airport. The project is estimated to be 9 on the TRL scale and the potential for other airports to replicate it is good, especially considering the initiative of the carbon reduction fund.