Energy independence and rising crude price trends indicate strong prospects for an alternative fuel market in commercial aviation. The growing need for alternative aviation fuel is reflected in active initiatives undertaken by major aviation and energy companies either independently or collaboratively. Aircraft original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), engine manufacturers, and airlines, besides energy companies and alternative energy companies, are the key stakeholders that are exploring possibilities in alternative fuels.
The analysis from Frost & Sullivan, Global Commercial Aviation Alternative Fuel Market A Strategic Overview, finds that the market size will gradually increase from 0.0016 million bpd to 0.0037 million BPD aggregating across fuel types by 2015. The energy industry is actively involved in examining alternative aviation fuels in the wake of increasing success in the ground transportation sector. Rising trend indicated for alternate fuel market. A rise in production volume on account of increasing production capacity in the years beyond 2015.
“A dynamic alternative aviation fuel market dominated by Fischer Tropsch (FT) fuels, which comes closest to the vision of a near-term alternative, is a reality to reckon with,” notes Frost & Sullivan Research Analyst Niranjana Sreenivasan. “The growing need for energy independence and an alternative aviation fuel that is designed around the engines in the near term points at FT fuel, while biofuel derived from non-food based resources are also being actively examined.”
Synthetic FT fuel, derived from the synthesis gas made up of carbon monoxide and hydrogen produces a hydrocarbon fuel that compares well with Jet A 1 and is superior to Jet A 1 in properties such as oxidative stability and freeze point. The successful precedent set by Sasol in South Africa in powering commercial service aircraft is a major factor driving technology and investment in the direction of synthetic FT fuels.
However, cost and sequestration issues are a major challenge for the multiple fuel alternatives that constitute the alternative aviation fuel market. The FT fuel process involves a higher degree of energy consumption than conventional jet fuel manufacture. As long as the issue of appropriate capture, sequestration, and storage of the gas is not resolved, it will exercise an active restraint upon investment and business scope, especially in the long run.
“Furthermore, the cost of setting up a synthetic FT fuel refinery is double that of a conventional refinery, giving rise to questions over price competitiveness versus crude,” says Sreenivasan. “Biofuels too face cost and supply issues, as they are currently obtained from food-based sources. Biofuel obtained from non food-based sources such as algae are still under experimentation.” Economics will determine the scope for alternate fuels in the short and medium terms. Legislations and support from the government will play a crucial role in facilitating alternate fuel ventures by means of fiscal support.
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