Rolls Royce warns of 'limited options' on aircraft biofuel

Rolls Royce warns of 'limited options' on aircraft biofuel

The aviation industry faces serious difficulties in developing alternative fuels for flying, according to a senior figure at Rolls-Royce who sought to dampen speculation that a rapid switch from kerosene to biofuel is in prospect.

Ulrich Wenger, head of fan and compressor engineering at Rolls-Royce Germany, said: “We have limited options. The volumes [of biofuel] are low and we do not have a producer who can generate biomass fuel without an output of carbon dioxide.

“It requires 180 tonnes of fuel for every aircraft take off. We cannot generate a high-enough volume of biofuels at present.”

Speaking at German travel trade show ITB in Berlin last week, Wenger outlined the challenges of producing an alternative to oil-based kerosene. He said: “Aviation needs fuel with high-energy density.

“The fuel needs to be manageable, with a tolerance of temperatures ranging above 40 degrees Centigrade and below minus 20 degrees. The alternative has to be a 'drop in' fuel with the same characteristics as kerosene.

“It must not be highly flammable and must be available on a large scale for distribution around the world. Kerosene fulfils these needs. We can't produce high volumes of biofuels.”

However, Wenger rejected a suggestion that the cost of developing and producing alternative fuels would ultimately prove prohibitive. He said: “When aircraft first flew across the Continent the tickets were not affordable for most people. Now fuel is more expensive, but tickets are less expensive – so I'm not pessimistic on price.

“Fuel consumption per passenger kilometre has reduced 70% since we started flying jet aircraft. We can compensate for high fuel costs by improvements in efficiency.”


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