European aircraft maker Airbus has announced that it is partnering with Honeywell Aerospace, Uop (a Honeywell company), International Aero Engines (IAE) and JetBlue Airways to develop a sustainable second-generation biofuel for use in commercial aircraft.

The companies will develop technology to convert vegetation and algae-based oils into aviation fuels and evaluate the challenges regarding obtaining approval for this fuel from standards organisations.

Non-food crop biomass fuels are known to provide a better fuel to emissions life cycle than current kerosene. The companies are examining the benefits of jet fuels, which are derived from renewable biomass sources that do not compete with food production or for valuable land and water resources.

This second-generation biofuel will be produced using technology developed by Uop, which is a leading developer of technology and products for the refining industry. Uop has developed a process to convert biomass into jet fuel that performs identically to traditional fuels and meets the stringent specifications for flight.

The potential advantages of such a second-generation biofuel are significant. They include a reduction in emissions and particulates from the engines, a reduced carbon-footprint, an improved engine cleanliness, reduce contrail formation, as well as overall lifecycle benefits. Furthermore, the partner companies will also investigate if biofuels could be developed, which would increase the payload and range performance of aircraft, reduce fuel consumption and increase the reliability and durability of engines.

Airbus is also been experimenting with jet fuel produced by a gas-to-liquids (GTL) process.

On February 1, an A380 Super jumbo powered by four Rolce Royce trend 900 engines, became the first commercial aircraft to fly using GTL fuel. The aircraft carried 11-metric tons of a blend containing 40% GTL in its number-one engine feed tank. The GTL blend fuel was supplied by Shell. Airbus sees GTL as a good precursor to second-generation jet biofuels.