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Are biofuels best suited to air travel?

We pay a lot of attention to biofuels' potential in the auto industry, but the aviation industry could be their ideal market. 

By Antony IngramGuest blogger / December 18, 2013

A Russian plane carrying emergency aid arrives at the Rafik Hariri International Airport in Beirut, Lebanon, Wednesday, Dec. 18, 2013. The aviation industry is gearing up to a very real push toward biofuels.

Bilal Hussein/AP


Given how familiar most of us are with cars, it's easy to see them as the be-all and end-all when it comes to cleaning up transportation. Reduce fossil fuels, increase electric propulsion, increase use of biofuels, job done.

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With over a billion cars on roads around the world improving them is clearly a priority, but other industries are seeking alternatives to conventional fossil fuels too, one of which is the aviation industry.

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And as aviation gears up for a very real push towards biofuels, we ask--is aviation actually the ideal market for such fuels, rather than the car industry?

The latest column from industry analysts Navigant Research suggests it could well be, as a whole supply chain for biofuels builds around it and several airlines begin to incorporate aviation biofuels into their routes.

It isn't just small-time airlines either.

KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, which runs hundreds of European and international routes,opened a biofuel route between the Netherlands and New York earlier this year. While the biofuel is a 50 percent blend with regular fossil fuel kerosene, it's still a long route using 50 percent less fossil fuel than usual.

The fuel itself is provided by SkyNRG, one of the major players in the field. It uses certified sustainable feedstock for biofuel conversion, and ensures protected areas and wildlife habitats are unaffected by the feedstock production.

SkyNRG is also a company behind the 'Bioport' concept, according to Navigant Research. These are regional production hubs condensing the upstream, midstream and downstream components of liquid fuel production.

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