Today, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO) published a report titled Alternative Aviation Fuels: Overview of Challenges, Opportunities, and Next Steps. This new report provides an overview of the current state of alternative aviation fuels, based upon findings from recent peer-reviewed studies, scientific working groups, and BETO stakeholder input provided during the Alternative Aviation Fuel Workshop

Biofuels are especially needed in the aviation industry because unlike passenger vehicles, airplanes cannot be fueled with electricity yet. Domestic and global trends in energy security and corporate responsibility have encouraged many public- and private-sector organizations to commit to adopting biobased aviation fuels. Biorefineries and airlines have demonstrated significant interest by signing long-term purchase agreements. Currently, the United States has three operational facilities that produce biobased aviation jet fuel and/or green diesel. Five additional facilities are planned in the near future. 

The report includes a summary of the Alternative Aviation Fuel Workshop, which was held in September 2016. The workshop focused on four main areas:

  • Economic and technical competitiveness
  • Fuel conversion and scale-up
  • Environmental sustainability and life-cycle benefits
  • Feedstock and product supply chains.

More than 100 BETO stakeholders attended the event, representing public- and private-sector organizations, national laboratories, and academic institutions. Knowledge assembled from the workshop will help to advance the understanding of current technical barriers for increasing the competitiveness of aviation biofuels. Attendees provided input regarding best practices to properly finance production facilities, effectively scale biorefining technologies, optimize production economics, and streamline certification processes. These challenges provide ample opportunity for developers, biomass growers, scientists, and industry partnerships to innovate and develop solutions that will provide readily available, affordable, and sustainable alternative jet fuel to airlines around the world.

BETO’s focus on aviation fuels is part of its Demonstration and Market Transformation program area, which aims to de-risk bioenergy production technologies through validated proof of performance at the pilot, demonstration, and pioneer scales and to remove any additional barriers to commercialization.