Why a sustainable amount of biofuels would be used as an alternative to jet fuel in 30 years’ time

Assessing the sustainability of biofuels for aviation has been an area of interest for researchers because it is a renewable and more environmentally friendly alternative to jet fossil fuel which is non-renewable and greatly diminishing day by day. Aviation biofuels, which are fuels produced from renewable biological resources like plants (or indirectly from industrial, domestic or agricultural wastes) are seen as a major option that could reduce the climatic impact of aviation, and enhance decarbonisation in the coming decades. Despite reports of uncertain issues regarding the use/sustainability of aviation biofuels, there is abundant evidence from research—too many to list—that points to the fact that sky-rocketing developments in aviation biofuels, and global conditions of economy/environment would favour the sustainable use of biofuels as an alternative to jet fuel in the next 30 years.

Uncertain issues and prospects regarding biofuels:

1. Uncertain Issues

Some reported issues that could hamper the sustainability of aviation biofuels include: energy security, food, rural development, provision of employment, and land rights and human health issues (Ribeiro, 2013; Scovronick, 2014; van Eijck et al., 2014; Raman et al., 2015). Albeit the fact that sustainability has been a much-debated and researched topic in the past few years, there is still a lack of concrete evidence in reviewed literature to show precise negative impacts (Ribeiro, 2013). Lee et al. (2010) stated that aviation causes negative RF (radiative forcing) or cooling by emitting Sulphur and destroying Methane; however, these outcomes have lesser impacts than positive RF or warming which is due to other types of emissions.

2. Prospects

(i) The existing aviation fuelling infrastructures (engines and mechanical/electrical systems) do not require large modifications because aviation biofuels are readily compatible with them (Kivits et al., 2010) — meaning that biofuels are a feasible replacement for the jet fossil fuels that are currently being used in existing aircraft fleet.

(ii) Aviation biofuels are preferable because they are more environmentally friendly than jet fuels. Among other alternatives like hydrogen cells and solar-powered aircraft, biofuels seem to be the most practical option for current aircraft engines; in fact, studies carried out by Wong (2008) and Deurwaarder (2005) state that biofuels are less polluting and more sustainable in terms of production and consumption. Evidence from other studies suggests that biofuels are a good alternative to conventional kerosene-based jet fuels (Blakey, 2011).

(iii) There is enough land that can be used to cultivate raw materials (biomass) for production of aviation biofuels. Doornbosch & Steenblik (2007) reviewed many studies and are quite realistic in their assumptions: they see potential for expansion of over 80% of more cultivatable land area mainly concentrated in Africa and South & Central America for the cultivation of bio-energy crop production in 2050; infact, it had even been stated that half of this land could be concentrated in seven countries: Angola, Democratic Republic of Congo, Sudan, Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil and Colombia (Fischer et al., 2006).

(iv) Scientists and researchers are optimistic regarding the sustainability of aviation biofuels; in fact, scientists and NGOs had stated the possibility of improvements in sustainability that could be made with regard to biofuels (McBride et al., 2011).

Conclusion:

The author is of the view that fossil fuels are continuously depleting and will completely diminish one day; thereafter, mankind who is now highly dependent on fossil fuel, will be forced to look towards the direction of biofuels which are renewable and can be easily cultivated in any country and used in aviation. Regarding the issues raised previously, the author believes that researchers will continue to devote their time towards discovering higher-grade and genetically-engineered biofuels that would erase certain/uncertain environmental and economic issues. Enough evidence has shown that history is on the side of positive-thinking researchers and they will always find ways to eradicate any obstacles or challenges faced by mankind.

References:

Blakey, L.R. (2011). Aviation gas turbine alternative fuels: A review. Proceedings of the Combustion Institute, 2863–2885.

Deurwaarder, E. (2005). Overview and analysis of national reports on the EU biofuel Directive: Prospects and barriers for 2005. ECN 5/1/2005.

Doornbosch R. & Steenblik R. (2007). Biofuels: Is the cure worse than the disease? Paris: OECD.

Fischer, G., Shah, M., van Velthuizen, H. & Nachtergaele, F. (2006). AgroEcological Zones Assessment. RP-06-003, International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis, April, Laxenburg.

Kivits, R., Charles, M.B., & Ryan, N. (2010). A post-carbon aviation future: Airports and the transition to a cleaner aviation sector. Futures 42(3), pp.199-211.

Lee, D.S., Pitari, G., Grewe, V. et al. (2010). Transport impacts on atmosphere and climate: Aviation. Atmospheric Environment 44(37), pp. 4678-4734.

McBride, A.C., Dale, V.H., Baskaran, L.M. et al. (2011). Indicators to support environmental sustainability of bioenergy systems. Ecological Indicators 11(5), pp.1277-1289.

Raman, S., Mohr, A., Helliwell, R., Ribeiro, B. et al. (2015). Integrating social and value dimensions into sustainability assessment of lignocellulosic biofuels. Biomass and Bioenergy. 82: p. 49–62.

Ribeiro, B.E. (2013). Beyond commonplace biofuels: Social aspects of ethanol. Energy Policy. 57: p. 355–362.

Scovronick, N. & Wilkinson, P. (2014). Health impacts of liquid biofuel production and use: A review. Global Environmental Change. 24: p. 155–164.

van Eijck, J., Romijn, H., A. Balkema, A. & Faaij, A. (2014). Global experience with jatropha cultivation for bioenergy: An assessment of socio-economic and environmental aspects. Renewable & Sustainable Energy Reviews. 32: p. 869–889.

Wong, H. M. (2008). Life-cycle assessment of Greenhouse Gas emissions from alternative jet fuels. Massachusetts Institute of Technology. U.S.A.

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14 comments

  • Would love to see biofuels take over in the aviation industry!

    Liked by 1 person

  • yea @ mitchteemly, biofuels would be great for the environment. thanks

    Liked by 1 person

  • The problem with biofuels is that soil degradation and deforestation are major issues. It’s not sustainable to chop down tropical forests in order to grow oil palms.

    I’m personally hoping for breakthroughs in economical hydrogen production so that solar and wind can be used to produce hydrogen. Fuel cells!

    Like

  • Sir, I am going to reblog this one for you.

    Liked by 1 person

  • Sustainable Ranger, thanks for your observations, but if you read the article in detail, you would have noticed that there is enough land available for planting new crops, and this has nothing to do with cutting down much older trees that constitute a forest; also, there was no mention of cutting down already-existing forests. Even if forests are cut down, as you might have insinuated, they can be grown again: this has been a common agricultural practice for ages

    As for soil degradation, soil can always be replenished to a great extent, if not completely. Mankind cannot do without farming on soil, and farming on soil which brings about degradation, is not only used for biofuel production; it goes beyond that and has been widely used for centuries before our existence. Take note that there is enough literature pointing to the fact that deforestation and soil degradation have been major issues before the era of biofuels; so biofuel production should not take blame for issues that have been existing long ago due to mankind’s over-dependence wood.

    Although biofuels have their own disadvantages, which no credible research has pointed any really disturbing issues about it. Hydrogen fuel has its disadvantages that make biofuels a still preferable option when you compare hydrogen fuel disadvantages with that of biofuels. Hydrogen fuel has disadvantages which stand out and which still make biofuels a better option:

    1. Hydrogen fuel production is expensive. Although you are waiting for a breakthrough in the use of solar energy, note that the use of solar energy has its own negative environmental impacts which no research has credibly stated whether its impacts are less than that of biofuels. You can read get a hint of some of them by searching google or reading here: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/233952943_Negative_environmental_impacts_of_Solar_Energy

    2. Hydrogen is very difficult to store and difficult to move around. While fossil fuels and biofuels can be sent though pipelines and coal can be easily carried off on the back of trucks, to move hydrogen around in even small amounts, is very expensive; transport and storage of hydrogen is not recommendable.

    3. Hydrogen cannot be readily used in exsiting engines and mechanical/electrical infrastructure. Gasoline is still being widely used to this day and biofuels can readily replace them without altering existing technology or manufacturing new technology to adapt to it. As of the moment, most, if not all of the already-existing infrastructure cannot readily support hydrogen fuel. This is why it becomes highly expensive to just think about replacing fossil fuel and biofuels with hydrogen. Also, automobiles and planes need to be redesigned in order to accommodate hydrogen as fuel. Think about the unnecessary cost which can lead to inflation and maybe bring about untold economical hardship and greater negative environmental impacts.

    4. Hydrogen is more risky because it’s more flammable.

    5. Till solar energy will prove to be more economical and safer in terms of bringing greater environmental sustainability, which is not yet in sight, hydrogen fuel production will continue to depend on fossil fuels, and indirectly on biofuels. Although hydrogen energy is renewable and has minimal environmental impact, other non-renewable sources such as coal, oil and natural gas are still currently needed to separate it from oxygen. While the point of switching to hydrogen is to get rid of using fossil fuels, they are still needed to produce hydrogen fuel.

    Like

    • Tropical forest and rainforest cannot simply be “regrown”. This is not possible. And soil takes a long time to regenerate. Topsoil takes a long time to form in nature. Once it is gone due to erosion — it is gone.

      Like

  • thanks @ oldpoet56. Words can’t express my appreciation for reblogging the post and at the same time increasing the exposure of my blog.

    Like

  • it’s unnecessary to waste time arguing about some comments when they have no connection with a post, since the comments show that there was either a lack of understanding of the post, or there wasn’t enough time or concentration put in to assimilate a post.

    let me inform you one more time in case you didn’t read the article well: the article has nothing to do with forests or old trees, as your comments are insinuating, and let me educate you a little: many plants or crops or plants for biofuel production do not need to grow as old as trees and forests before they can be used to produce biofuels; thinking that they should is incorrect. you cant compare the much younger age of fully matured crops used for producing biofuels, like corn, soybeans and sugarcane, with the much older age of trees in a typical forest; the trees in forests reach maturity after many years.

    I am not even suppose to argue with you again because the content has nothing to do with old trees or forests. I would recommend that you to read about the crops used for producing biofuels before you start thinking that crops for biofuel production have to grow for several years, and as old as forest trees, before they can be used to produce biofuels.

    biofuels don’t need to be produced using old trees but crops produced within few months or just a year; examples: https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&source=web&rct=j&url=https://amp.interestingengineering.com/seven-biofuel-crops-use-fuel-production&ved=2ahUKEwiisbj7xZPfAhVzURUIHbOoAEcQFjACegQIEBAP&usg=AOvVaw39GC3yG1dHq0gMtBvYNJ66&ampcf=1

    your other statement that tropical forest and rainforest cannot simply be “regrown” is laughable and could make you a laughing stock if you say it to the hearing of knowledgeable people. like every other plant, forests and rain forests can be regrown; it’s only a matter of time for all plants to regrow. the only time they can’t be regrown is if forests plants’ species are destroyed and become extinct!

    check Google for reports on how iceland has been regrowing forests destroyed by vikings ages ago. You can also read other instances about Brazil, and another one here: https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.newscientist.com/article/dn14112-how-long-does-it-take-a-rainforest-to-regenerate/amp/?espv=1

    Topsoil doesn’t need to be nourished by nature before plants and trees grow. mankind has grown past the stage of depending only on nature to supply soil nutrients for plant growth.

    my article has nothing to do with forests, and generalizing that deforestation leads to erosion is not correct. you can read about the major causes of erosion and compare.

    Like

  • I absolutely love this beautiful post, simply amazing! Aerospace Engineering is my ultimate passion. 😊
    Thanks very much. Have a lovely day!

    Liked by 1 person

  • C. Capablanca, your words are “inspiring” — just to say the least. it’s a pleasure to know you enjoyed reading the post. Thanks a lot for stopping by and reading; have a wonderful weekend and week ahead.

    Liked by 1 person

  • wow. thanks for these wonderful wishes. reading them brought immediate anticipation of joy, blessings and positivity in the coming week. thanks once more.

    Like

  • David Pflieger

    I certainly hope that we can find an alternative solution to fossil fuels for aviation.

    Liked by 1 person

  • Dear David, most of us on the sidelines hope and believe that with the great advances mankind has been making, scientists, researchers, politicians, businesspeople, etc., would likely find a far better alternative to fossil fuels.

    Thanks for visiting, reading and commenting

    Like

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