Mallee trees, which are native to Australia, have been found to offer a viable source of aviation biofuel.
A two-year study commissioned by Airbus, in partnership with Virgin Australia, is reported to have produced “encouraging results”.
The final report, published by the Future Farm Industries Cooperative Centre (CRC), concluded that jet fuel made from mallee trees would be a sustainable and viable option for the aviation industry. Growing in the vast Great Southern region of Western Australia, the trees were found to thrive in areas of poor soil quality, and not directly compete with food production.
The CRC added that production could be possible within the next seven years.
“What this report demonstrates is that mallees can provide a future economic benefit to farmers and regional communities, with a viable industry possible by 2021,” said Dr John McGrath, CRC research director. “Mallee integrates well with farm crop and livestock operations and can protect and enhance biodiversity, and contributing to rebalancing water tables.”
The study also said that if all flights departing Perth Airport were powered by locally-sourced mallee biofuel, that emissions could be reduced by at least 40%.
“The results show mallee jet fuel is a more sustainable option than our current fossil-based fuel supply while also providing valuable insights into potential new supply chains. We look forward to supporting the project and to getting closer to the commercial supply of biofuel in Western Australia,” said Virgin Australia’s group executive for regional airlines, Merren McArthur.
Numerous biofuel sources are currently being tested and trialled around the world, from waste cooking oil to algae. Earlier this month, Airbus and KLM conducted the longest ever commercial flight using sustainable jet fuel, when one of the Dutch carrier’s A330s flew from Amsterdam to Aruba partially powered by biofuel derived from cooking oil.