Biomass to Jet Fuel: UBC and the Aviation Sector Tackle Climate Change

UBC, Boeing, and other aviation stakeholders have partnered to create technology to reduce climate change.

In spite of technical, operational, and engineering improvements in aviation, carbon dioxide emissions from the use of conventional fuels is likely to increase going forward due to ongoing growth in air traffic.

The University of British Columbia, in collaboration with Boeing, sustainable jet fuel market leader SkyNRG, and other aviation stakeholders will be at the leading edge of clean energy technology, studying whether cleaner aviation fuel can be created using a material that is abundant in the province and the country: forestry waste.

The partnership arose after a 2015 study by UBC, sponsored by Boeing, determined that 10% of the province’s annual aviation fuel needs could be met by biofuels created from waste, such as leftover branches and sawdust. “The most promising approach for long term emission reductions is through the introduction of renewable aviation fuel (biojet) derived from sustainably sourced biomass,” says Susan van Dyk, Project Manager for the Integrated Biological Biorefinery Task Force with the UBC Forest Products Biotechnology/ Bioenergy Group.

Studies have shown that using this type of biofuel can reduce lifecycle carbon dioxide emissions by 50 to 80% when compared to fuel used today.

UBC was a natural choice for a partner in the project. “We decided to work with UBC because they have worldleading expertise in the area of forest-based biofuel and bio-product research. They are also a powerful convener in the province, having a position of respect with a strong network of industry and government stakeholders,” says Michael Lakeman, Regional Director of Biofuel Strategy at Boeing Commercial Airplanes. The project aims to make a positive impact beyond the aviation industry.

“The vision is that regionally appropriate, sustainable biofuel supply chains are developed to provide fuel for airlines wherever they operate,” says Lakeman. “In doing so, benefits flow not only to aviation, but also to other significant sectors of the economy that will experience growth from this new industry, such as the forestry sector in Western Canada. Many of the solutions being pursued also provide other environmental or social benefits, such as reduced local air pollution, enhanced water or soil quality, rural economic development and employment opportunities.”