Back to Initiatives & Projects List
The main purpose of Alfa-Bird (Alternative fuels and biofuels in Aviation) was to develop a general and complete assessment of a selection of alternative fuels for aviation.
Research & Development
Feedstock - Processing
Type of pathway
Starting time and duration
July 2008 - July 2012
Initiated in July 2008, Alfa-Bird was a European research and development project, co-funded by the European Commission Directorate General for Research in the frame the 7th Framework Program, aiming at investigating the potential of alternative fuels for aviation, including their technical performances, their industrial production processes and market integration.
The project was dedicated to the selection and the evaluation of alternative fuels with a short to long term perspective. The evaluation was carried on a technical (fuel suitability and compliance with aviation requirements), economic and environmental basis.
Based on standard characterisation of fuel properties, the project down-selected 4 promising fuels for further assessment from a list of 12 candidate fuels blends covering different family of chemical compounds: paraffinic, naphtenic and oxygenated compounds.
The down-selected fuels underwent a detailed technical assessment through fit-for-purpose tests covering injection and combustion, system integration (in material compatibility) and safety.
An environmental analysis (life cycle analysis) together with an economic analysis was also performed for the selected fuels.
Alfa-Bird gathered a broad multi-disciplinary consortium of 24 partners for aeronautics, fuel industry and research.
European Virtual Institute for Integrated Risk Management (EU-VRi), Airbus, Avio, CNRS, Technologica, Dassault Aviation, DLR, INERIS, LISBP, IFPEN, Lesaffre, MTU, Onera, Rolls-Royce, Sasol, Shell, Snecma, University of Sheffield, Unikarl, Gratz Technical University, University of Toronto, INRA
|Achievements to date|
From the initial list of candidate fuels, the four fuels selected for deeper analysis included a fully synthetic Fischer-Tropsch fuel (Coal-to-Liquid from Sasol - used as a reference approved fuel), a Fischer-Tropsch Gas-to-Liquid (GTL), a blend of GTL and naphtenic cut, and a blend of GTL with hexanol (an alcohol with long carbon chain).
Results highlighted the strong impact of aromatics content of the fuel on the compatibility with elastomeric material, where these aromatics are also responsible for particulate matter emissions. Naphtenic cut proved to be an interesting candidate for further analysis while hexanol proved to be quite challenging as a drop-in fuel with regard to current aircraft and engines.
If CTL and GTL prove to be excellent fuel, the environmental analysis induced that are not likely to bring any greenhouse gas emission reduction, even with carbon capture and sequestration. With similar chemical composition, synthetic paraffinic kerosene obtained through Fischer-Tropsch from biomass (BTL) or hydroprocessing of oils and fats (HEFA) however present a high potential for emission reductions provided that land use change emissions are controlled.
Economical assessment, which included also BTL, concluded that GTL pathway is already viable in a range of cases. CTL is also an attractive case according to the geographical location and coal supply cost, while future regulations on CO2, could mitigate its economic interest in the future. Finally, the study concluded that BTL production cost could be compatible with market price if the pathway is supported by policies speeding up the industrial development.