Local airlines to help develop the South African biofuel industry

The persistent economic uncertainty coupled with the international agreement on the need for greener practices, has led to a desperate need for carbon-neutral technologies. The most impressive of which is the advancement of biofuel production within the aviation industry.
The European Union plans to require all transportation fuels to contain a 10% biofuel component from the beginning of next year and new engines have been developed to successfully run on biofuels.

For many years the Aviation industry has been criticised for its high carbon emissions although commercial airlines represent around 2% of emissions world wide. The combination of high oil prices (which means we do not have cheap flights) and proposed carbon penalties appear to be forcing the aviation industry’s hand when it comes to fossil fuel alternatives. The International Air Transport Association (IATA) are encouraging stakeholders in the aviation and air transport fuel supply industry to work together to provide a safe, environmentally friendly and affordable solution to the current issues facing the industry.

There are many developments underway in South Africa focusing on the commercial production of biofuels as well as developing engines capable of operating on them. ADEPT Airmotive, a Durban based general aviation company have recently developed an engine that runs on a range of fuels, including environmentally friendly fuels such as biofuel.
South Africa currently limits biofuel feedstocks to sorghum, sugar cane, sugar beet and jatropha. However, biofuels are not produced commercially in sufficient volume or at a competitive price to offset the use of petroleum-based jet fuel. The lack of sufficient large scale plants to produce the biofuel, places further limitations on the South African aviation industry.

Carbon emissions by the airline industry are one of the topics tabled for discussion at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP17) talks in Durban. The environmental issues as well as potential solutions will be discussed and presented in response to the current situation. However, the aviation industry is crucial to the developing economy in South Africa and discussions will need to include the potential for biofuel usage within the industry to maintain the critical role the aviation industry plays in the economy.

The struggling economy, shortage of aviation fuels, 161% increase in ACSA charges over the next five years in partnership with the suggestions by the South African government to include airlines in its economy-wide carbon tax means South African airlines, namely South African Airways may find themselves needing as much as 50% biofuels in its fuel supply by 2020 in order to avoid carbon penalties. Which could be the stimulus needed to create a thriving biofuels industry in South Africa.