Seattle airport wants to power “all flights” with biofuel

Sea-Tac's largest operator, Alaska Airlines, is partnering the project
Sea-Tac’s largest operator, Alaska Airlines, is partnering the project

Seattle-Tacoma International Airport has embarked on an ambitious plan to power “all flights by all airlines” using biofuel.

As the first step towards this goal, the Port of Seattle, Alaska Airlines and Boeing have joined forces to conduct a US$250,000 ‘Biofuel Infrastructure Feasibility Study’, which will assess the costs and infrastructure necessary to deliver a blend of aviation biofuel and conventional jet fuel to aircraft at Seattle.

The partners’ longer-term plan is to incorporate “significant quantities of biofuel into the airport’s fuel infrastructure”, which is used by all 26 airlines and more than 380,000 flights annually at the US hub. Seattle is the 13th busiest airport in the US and will serve more than 42 million passengers this year.

“This [partnership] will send a signal to airlines and biofuel producers that Sea-Tac Airport will be ready to integrate commercial-scale use of aviation biofuels,” said Port of Seattle’s commissioner, John Creighton.

“Biofuel infrastructure will make Sea-Tac Airport an attractive option for any airline committing to use biofuel, and will assist in attracting biofuel producers to the region as part of a longer-term market development strategy.”

Joe Sprague, senior vice president of communications & external relations for Alaska Airlines, which is the largest operator at Seattle, said the airline is planning to incorporate biofuel into its flights at one or more of its hubs by 2020, with Seattle being the first choice.

“Biofuel offers the greatest way to further reduce our emissions,” said Sprague. “This study is a critical step in advancing our environmental goals and stimulating aviation biofuel production in the Pacific Northwest.”

Using sustainably-produced biofuel can reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 50-80% compared to conventional petroleum-based jet fuel, according to the US Department of Energy. Since 2011, when biofuel was approved for commercial aviation, airlines have conducted more than 2,000 passenger flights using blends of biofuel and jet fuel.

The Port of Seattle will manage the US$250,000 study, which is expected to be completed by late 2016.

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