Authors: Xavier Dommange
Among the Aviation Fuels available today, only microalgae fuels seem to have long-term sustainable perspectives as it relies on technology improvement rather than on deposits or extensive land use. Thus, to reach international environment targets, aviation has to work with MicroAlgae, seemingly the best long-term candidate regard to potential for environment benefits and volume capacity.
For near future, given the constraints imposed by existing aircraft fuel system and the limits imposed by conversion processes, Aviation support for microalgae fuel should focus on:
- autotrophic growth (based on CO2 consumption) for microalgae biomass production
- HydroThermal Liquefaction and Hydroprocessed Esters and Fatty Acids with one-step lipid recovery for conversion of microalgae biomass into fuel.
In this frame, 3 milestones are defined here for aviation microalgae fuels:
- M1: reach a constant 1.3 NER (Net Energy Ratio) (equivalent to biodiesel and corn ethanol’s NER). This could unlock new funding and mandate schemes for microalgae.
- M2: achieve a liter cost similar to the average of other aviation alternative fuels.
- M3: reach a constant 5 NER, the highest among terrestrial crop for fuels.
The gap between milestones progressively increases as the reach of one milestone should trigger recognition of microalgae pathway and encourage investments to reach next milestone. These milestones should first be pursued on a limited number of strains to evade further R&D scattering.
Keywords: Aviation Alternative Fuels, Roadmap for microalgae fuels, shared R&D milestones, conversion processes, environment benefit