In June 2013, MASBI produced its final report and recommendations from the one-year-long study of the potential for aviation biofuels in the Midwest (report available at www.masbi.org).
Noting the progress made in developing biofuels, including its use on more than 1,500 commercial aviation flights globally, the coalition agreed that more must be done to achieve the sustainable production of commercial-scale and cost-competitive advanced biofuels from sources such as non-food crops and waste products. MASBI sees the development of vertically coordinated value-chains as an effective way to develop aviation biofuel industry through which Midwest could rapidly scale-up the production of aviation biofuels. A regional approach to development is also considered as an ideal means to connect agricultural systems and biofuel industry, which expedites and focuses progress while limiting financial risks.
MASBI outlined actions and recommendations in five key areas to advance biofuels development.
From its analysis, MASBI selected four promising pathways likely to be commercially available in 5 years: alcohol-to-Jet (ATJ), Fischer-Tropsch, hydrotreated esters and fatty acids (HEFA) and hydrotreated depolymerised cellulosic jet (HDCJ from direct liquefaction pyrolysis). Alongside, nine feesdstocks were selected as the most promising ones: camelina, corn, municipal wastes, industrial residues, inedible corn oil, pennycress and wood residues.
1. Improve feedstock production capacity through agricultural innovation.
2. Develop advanced feedstocks tailored for jet fuel production.
3. Investigate the effects of uncertain conditions, such as changing policy, weather, seasonal intermittency, and co-products on the techno‑economic performance of conversion technologies.
4. Advance technologies to convert lignocellulosic biomass.
Production and commercialization
In the near term, MASBI sees a larger potential for residues stream to provide large volumes of low-costs feedstocks as conversion of farmland to energy crops, perceived as less profitable than food crops, is not likely.
As diesel production is more profitable than jet fuel, optimising process for diesel could be a way to develop the industry.
ASTM approval and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) approval of pathways are seen as hurdle for the development of new pathways.
5. Identify means to expedite approvals by ASTM International and EPA.
6. Allow producers to optimize products portfolio to improve overall economics of biofuels production.
Financing and investments
Perceived technology risks and policy risks (associated to the need for incentives to ensure cost competitiveness) limit interest of investors and increase requested return on investments.
Listening to investors, large-scale movement in the institutional investor community is unlikely until stakeholders in the aviation value chain themselves make direct investments.
7. At this early stage of development, consider (as stakeholders) to enter agreements with the aim to balance risks with partners, thereby accelerating the rate of industry growth.
8. Demonstrate industry demand with aviation jet fuel purchase guidelines (to initiate and inform discussions with producers to identify places of overlap where their commercial needs meet).
9. Create a pool of capital to invest in biofuels.
Policy and economic development
Government policy must provide long-term, reliable market signals as the industry grows to commercial scale. MASBI recommends to support sustainable aviation as a national strategic priority, using public-military-private partnership to promote industrial production, and to provide risk mitigation for investors, producers and customers.
10. Create longer-term policies that enable investment and production.
11. Level the playing field with fossil fuels and other form of ground-based fuels.
12. Fully fund the Defense Production Act Title III for the production of biofuels.
13. Build regional demonstration facilities supported by municipal and state policy (small facilities which don’t exhaust feedstock availability)
14. Incorporate sustainability standards and advance certification.