Boeing to turn Chinese gutter oil into fuel

As part of its efforts to develop aviation biofuel, Boeing has launched a new facility that will lead to aircraft being powered by waste cooking oil from Chinese cities.

Photo by Maxene Huiyu
Photo by Maxene Huiyu

In partnership with the China’s state-run aircraft manufacturer, COMAC, Boeing this week opened a demonstration facility that will turn so-called ‘gutter oil’ into aviation biofuel.

The two companies estimate that 500 million gallons (1.8 billion litres) of biofuel could be made annually in China from used cooking oil.

“Strong and continuing teamwork between Boeing and COMAC is helping our industry make progress on environmental challenges that no single company or country can solve alone,” said Ian Thomas, president of Boeing China. “By working together for mutual benefit, we’re finding innovative ways to support China’s aviation industry and build a sustainable future.”

Boeing and COMAC are sponsoring the facility, which is called the China-US Aviation Biofuel Pilot Project. It will use a technology developed by Hangzhou Energy & Engineering Technology Co Ltd (HEET) to collect and clean the gutter oil, before oil converting it into jet fuel at a rate of 650 litres per day.

The project’s overall goal however, is to assess the technical feasibility and cost of producing higher volumes of the resulting biofuel.

“We are very happy to see the progress that has been made in the collaboration between Boeing and COMAC, especially the achievement in aviation biofuel technology,” said Dr Guangqiu Wang, Vice President of COMAC’s Beijing Aeronautical Science & Technology Research Institute. “We will continue to work with Boeing in energy conservation and emissions reduction areas to promote the sustainable development of the aviation industry.”

Biofuel reduces carbon emissions by 50-80% compared to petroleum-based jet fuel, and its development is major component of the aviation industry’s commitment to achieve carbon neutral growth from 2020, and to slash its carbon emissions in half by 2050.

Gutter oil is just one biofuel source being considered, alongside plants, algae, corn and animal fats. The type of biofuel being produced by the China-US project has already been used for more than 1,600 commercial flights.

Air transport accounts for 2% of global manmade CO2 emissions.

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