Boeing Bullish on Biofuel from Algae

Algae makes good jet fuel. Good enough that Boeing is heavily promoting algae. From the Seattle Times:

"It makes extremely good jet fuel," said Darrin Morgan, Boeing's director of business analysis for environmental strategy. ...

"It grows naturally in an aquatic environment; it doubles in mass every day; it's very plant-oil dense," he said.

Morgan said the algae — grown either in shallow ponds or closed tanks — is so productive that the entire supply of fuel for the world's fleet of commercial jets could be provided in a cultivated area about the size of West Virginia.

"Of course, West Virginia may not be the right place," he deadpanned. He envisages ideal cultivation areas in such places as Australia or the desert Southwest of the United States, where crops won't grow and salty aquifers or the sea provide reusable water. ...

Morgan said Boeing isn't planning to go into the fuel business, but it will do everything it can to promote research so extracting oil from algae becomes commercially viable on a large scale. ...

Boeing's rosy forecast is that as much as 5 to 10 percent of aviation fuel could come from this source by 2015.
My question is why only 5 to 10% in seven years?  Why not more faster? Is it the cost or is it the lack of production capacity?  See the full article in the Seattle Times and another piece on the same topic in the New York Times, both of which focus on boring environmentalism and never bother to talk about the business case for algae fuel.



July 27, 2008 at 9:12 PM

wReally? You are surprised that only 5-10% of Jet A could be replaced in seven years? Foolish Kapitalist! The reality of the situation is even an established technology would not be able to ramp up to that level in less than 2-3 years, much less a nacent technology like algal jet fuel. Plus, you are talking about aviation fuel; you obviously have never been involved in changing an ASTM spec...
I could rant forever about this but the bottom line is: we should be so lucky to have 5% of jet fuel coming from anything but petroleum in the next 7 years. And you can't blame this inertia on fat cats and oil's a by-product of the systems that ensure that you can fly and live to tell about it.