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Renewable Jet Fuel

Renewable jet fuels derived from biomass (plants, trees, algae, waste and other organic matter bio-oils) offer the largest single opportunity to reduce emissions while ensuring long term fuel security for the sector. The airline sector is committed to reducing its greenhouse gas emissions and have set a target of carbon neutral growth from 2020. The use of these fuels will significantly contribute towards achieving that target. It will also reduce our dependence on oil imports which are expected to continue to rise in cost and will ease the pressure on Australia’s aging refineries which are currently operating at capacity. Importantly, it will promote Australian innovation and support local economies where much of the anticipated biofuel feed stocks will be produced.

Mallee Biomass BioFUELS

Renewable jet fuel will be produced from a number of biomass feedstock types utilising a number of refining pathways depending on location, infrastructure and climate. Australia is ideally suited to producing this fuel. A number of barriers exist to commercial deployment of renewable jet fuels including biomass production, economics and the establishment of a new value chain. Virgin Australia is committed to working with all relevant stakeholders to encourage the establishment of this new industry.

To be acceptable for commercial use by Virgin Australia, renewable jet fuel must: be competitively priced compared to fossil based Jet-A and be available in significant quantities; be a 'drop-in' replacement that meets the same technical standards as conventional fossil-derived jet fuel; and fulfill internationally recognised sustainability criteria that ensures land, water resources and biodiversity are not adversely affected during production including reducing overall carbon emissions over the fuel's lifecycle.

Virgin Australia is supporting the development of these fuels through a number of avenues including: engaging and supporting promising biofuel projects; working with the government to encourage funding of essential research and address scale-up issues; supporting and working with the aviation industry and biofuel supply chain on shared issues; and supporting the development of a robust biofuel sustainability standard for our region.

We have continued to lead industry efforts towards establishing a renewable jet fuel industry in Australia through our role as a founding partner of the Australian chapter of the Sustainable Aviation Fuel Users Group (ASAFUG). In 2010 ASAFUG commissioned the CSIRO to lead a “Roadmap” study to help accelerate the commercialisation of a renewable jet fuel industry in Australia and New Zealand. The Roadmap was launched in May 2011 and it found that by 2020 a 5 per cent bio-derived jet fuel share could be possible in Australia and New Zealand, expanding to 40 per cent by 2050.

Read the Roadmap Report (PDF)

To help accelerate the development and commercialisation of renewable jet fuel in Australia we are a partner in a number of biofuel projects that simultaneously foster the environment, Australian innovation and regional economies, including:

  • A University of Queensland led project to undertake a detailed analysis of a potential Queensland-based renewable jet fuel industry from three distinct biomass sources – sugar cane, pongamia, and algae.
  • A Memorandum of Understanding with Renewable Oil Corporation, GE and the Future Farm Industries CRC to work together develop a sustainable supply of high quality, cost competitive, renewable jet fuel derived from native mallee trees grown in the West Australian wheat belt to help control dryland salinity. This represents a significant step towards the development of a commercial jet fuel industry in Australia and one that also provides multiple social and environmental co-benefits. Read Media Release - Virgin Australia partners to develop unique Australian bio-fuel (PDF)
  • A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Australian-based biofuel company Licella, who has been working hard over the past three and a half years to develop a potentially breakthrough technology called CAT-HTR that converts waste into renewable jet biofuel. We know it sounds complicated, but it is surprisingly straightforward. Unlike current methods that require several processes, Licella’s CAT-HTR involves just one-step. By using a unique, new water technology, CAT-HTR converts woody waste into high quality bio-crude oil in one, continuous flow. What’s more, by using water, CAT-HTR is a much cleaner and cost-effective alternative to current methods. Read Virgin Australia enters MOU to support new Australian BioFuel Technology Media Release (PDF).

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