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Port of Seattle, Boeing and Alaska Airlines release aviation biofuel infrastructure study findings

The Port of Seattle, Boeing and Alaska Airlines have released the findings of an aviation biofuel infrastructure study that identifies the best infrastructure options for delivering aviation biofuel to Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA) in Seattle, Washington state.

Port of Seattle, Boeing and Alaska Airlines study seeks to identify the best infrastructure options for delivering biojet to Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (photo courtesy Alaska Airlines).

Port of Seattle, Boeing and Alaska Airlines study seeks to identify the best infrastructure options for delivering biojet to Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (photo courtesy Alaska Airlines).

The Port of Seattle, Boeing and Alaska Airlines have released a first-of-its-kind study that identifies the best infrastructure options for delivering aviation biofuel to Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA) in Seattle, Washington state (WA). The study “Aviation Biofuels Infrastructure Feasibility Study” assessed costs and infrastructure necessary to deliver a blend of aviation biofuel and conventional jet fuel to aircraft at Sea-Tac, a crucial step toward routine biofuel use in the future.

The partnership announced its intention to launch the study late in 2015. Sea-Tac is among the first airports in North America to work with aviation, energy and research partners to systematically evaluate all aspects to developing a commercial-scale programme from scratch.

– Unlike the biofuel itself, fuel blending and delivery infrastructure cannot grow on trees. We needed this comprehensive analysis to confirm that we can offer commercial airlines feasible and sustainable delivery options while reducing our environmental footprint and being a good neighbour to surrounding communities, said Port of Seattle Commissioner John Creighton in a statement

30 sites in WA evaluated

The study evaluated more than 30 sites around Washington State that could potentially support the receipt, blending, storage, and delivery infrastructure required to supply Sea-Tac Airport with up to 50 million gallons (≈ 189 million litres) per annum of sustainable alternative aviation fuel.

Potential sites were evaluated both for the ability to accommodate near-term (12-18 months) supplies of five million gallons (≈ 18.9 million litres) per annum and long-term (2-10 years) supplies of more than 50 million gallons (≈ 189 million litres) per annum.

In pursuing an integrated aviation biofuels supply chain, sites were selected based on the capacity to accommodate delivery of unblended biofuel by pipe, rail, barge, and/or truck, and were evaluated based on land use, zoning, and environmental considerations. The most-feasible sites were determined based on the construction costs of the needed infrastructure, environmental constraints, permitting and planning, and other contingencies to help determine an overall score and final recommendation. The study concluded that:

  • A small biofuel receiving and blending facility at the Sea-Tac Airport Fuel Farm is the most cost-effective solution in the short term;
  • The Anacortes-area refineries are the most cost-effective options for large volumes of aviation biofuel over the long term due to their access to marine, rail, truck, and the Olympic Pipeline;
  • The Phillips 66/Olympic Pipeline Company sites in Renton also showed potential to accommodate receipt and blending facilities for moderate-to-large biofuel volumes over the long term

– This study represents a critical milestone toward powering our planes with a sustainable aviation biofuel made right here at home. After recently flying the first commercial flight with new biofuel made from forest residuals from the Pacific Northwest, Alaska Airlines is eager to see how biofuel flights can become a daily reality at our hometown hub at Sea-Tac, said Joe Sprague, Senior VP of Communications and External Relations for Alaska Airlines.

An aviation biofuel production plant was not considered in this feasibility study. However, once a long-term aviation biofuel source is identified, it will be an important next step to determine its relative proximity to the sites considered in the study. The closer the source of the aviation biofuel to a biofuel blending and integration facility, the lower the costs associated with the fuel.

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