BLOG: Commercialising sustainable technology

fuel farmeJet MD John Pitts discusses his thoughts on the development of sustainable jet fuel, and why schemes should be put in place to encourage the commercialisation of existing technologies and initiatives to drive uptake, rather than investing in continuous development. 

I read with interest news of a new Government scheme to fund research into the concept of making sustainable jet fuel from waste that would otherwise be taken to landfill. The Future Fuels for Flight and Freight competition is a sizeable £22 million fund. While I appreciate the need for significant investment in this area – we are strong advocates of sustainable aviation fuel – I challenge the direction of funds into the development of the technology rather than the commercialisation of the technology already developed.

It’s all well and good hunting for new paths, but why are we not placing more emphasis on commercialising existing technologies? This would hasten supply of sustainable fuels to the marketplace – and I see that supply is a key issue at the moment.

I’m reminded of the project by BA to turn municipal solid waste into jet fuel – enough to satisfy the needs of BA’s flights at London City Airport twice over. BA claims lack of Government support alongside low crude oil prices and investor jitters forced them to scrap the £35m p.a. scheme in June last year. This appears to be less to do with the technology and more to do with commercial viability or priorities at a point in time.

Similarly, if existing technologies were adopted by the UK Government’s Renewable Transport Fuel Obligations – alongside those similar schemes in other nations – then the impetus to embrace these technologies would empower not dissuade. The ICAO Carbon Offsetting Scheme for International Aviation (CORSIA) will have the effect of pulling technologies through commercialisation; my view is that there should be complimentary incentives to push them through.

The development of sustainable aviation fuel is of great interest to me so I welcome alternative thoughts and opinions around this.

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