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Boeing will offer biofuel for jet deliveries

Filling up Alaska Airlines jet with biofuel
Alaska Airlines says it will take a biofuel fill-up from Boeing when its 737 MAX jets are delivered. (Alaska Airlines Photo)

Boeing says it will begin offering airlines and operators the chance to have their jets powered by biofuel when they take off for their new homes, and Seattle-based Alaska Airlines is the first to sign up for the option.

The program was unveiled today, in the wake of this week’s first-ever Washington Sustainable Aviation Fuels Summit in Seattle. Boeing and Alaska Airlines were among the event’s sponsors.

Like the summit, Boeing’s new option is aimed at advancing the use of aviation biofuels, which studies have shown can reduce carbon emissions by up to 80 percent on a typical flight.

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It’s not easy being green when it comes to jet fuel

Biofuel fillup for Alaska Airlines
Swissport fuel manager Jarid Svraka fuels an Alaska Airlines flight powered with a 20 percent blend of biofuel made from wood waste at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport in 2016. (Alaska Airlines Photo)

For years, the Port of Seattle has been talking about weaning Seattle-Tacoma International Airport off fossil fuels, but now it’s getting serious about taking action.

“At a certain point in time, you just have to say, ‘Well, let’s make a run for it,’ ” Port Commissioner Fred Felleman told GeekWire. “It can’t be just an intellectual pursuit.”

But it’s not totally up to the port: A new network of interlocking infrastructures will have to be created, connecting farmers with refiners, distributors and users.

That’s the motivation behind the Washington Sustainable Aviation Fuels Summit, set to take place on March 7-8 at the Bell Harbor International Conference Center in Seattle. The event, hosted by Earth Day Northwest 2020, is meant to bring together stakeholders who can get Sea-Tac closer to its goal of having at least 10 percent of its fuel come from sustainable sources by 2028.

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Study confirms aviation biofuel’s benefits

Contrails
During flight tests led by NASA, a DC-8 research jet’s four engines burned either JP-8 jet fuel or a 50-50 blend of JP-8 and renewable alternative fuel of hydro processed esters and fatty acids produced from camelina plant oil. (NASA / SSAI Photo / Edward Winstead)

A NASA-led study demonstrates that airplanes powered by biofuels can emit up to 70 percent less particulate pollution – providing a potential boost for technologies that are being pioneered at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport.

The study, published today by the journal Nature, was conducted in the skies over NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center in California. But the findings could be applied at Sea-Tac, where the Port of Seattle, Alaska Airlines and Boeing are partnering to work toward having biofuel available for every flight.

NASA’s flight tests in 2013 and 2014 were part of a series of experiments known as the Alternative Fuel Effects on Contrails and Cruise Emissions Study, or ACCESS.

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Biofuel boost: Waste wood helps power jet

Biofuel bottles
Sample bottles of biofuel sit on an Alaska Airlines counter at Sea-Tac. (Credit: Alaska Airlines)

Alaska Airlines says it sent a Boeing 737 jet on the first commercial airline flight that was partially fueled by branches, stumps and other leftovers from forests in the Pacific Northwest.

The jet took off this morning from Seattle-Tacoma International Airport and headed for Reagan National Airport in Washington, D.C., with its tanks full of a new type of biofuel blend.

Twenty percent of the jet fuel came from wood waste that was collected during timber harvests or thinning operations on land owned by Weyerhaeuser in Oregon, the Muckleshoot Indian Tribe in Washington and the Confederated Salish Kootenai Tribes in Montana, plus rejected wood fibers from Cosmo Specialty Fibers in Cosmopolis, Wash.

In a typical timber harvest, some of the leftover limbs, branches and stumps are left behind to replenish the land and provide cover. The rest is typically pushed into a pile and burned.

Those practices provided an opportunity for the Northwest Advanced Renewables Alliance, a public-private consortium led by Washington State University. Researchers took advantage of a grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to demonstrate a technology that converts the excess waste wood into isobutanol.

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