Airbus and Virgin join forces to develop fuel from eucalyptus trees

23 March 2012

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23 March 2012 | Adam Leach

Airbus and Virgin Australia are working together to help develop a sustainable fuel source from Australian eucalyptus trees.

Airbus has joined Virgin Australia, which it supplies with aircraft, and Future Farm Industries CRC in a consortium to develop the sustainable fuel source for use in the aviation industry. The role of Airbus will be to support the approval and certification of the fuel for use in commercial aviation.

Sean Donohue, group executive of operations at Virgin Australia, said: “In order to produce a biofuel that can be used sustainably in our current aircraft, it is important to have members from every part of the supply chain involved. Airbus will bring vast expertise in aircraft manufacturing to the consortium and we are very pleased to have a company of its calibre joining this promising Australian project.”

The fuel is made by sustainably harvesting the trees, then putting them through a process of pyrolysis - where they are treated with extreme oxygen-free heat to break them down into their raw material then refined into an alternative fuel. The strength of the process is that the planting of eucalyptus mallee trees can turn salt-affected land into a productive state again.

Tom Enders, president and CEO at Airbus, said: “Alternative fuels are a crucial part of the roadmap for sustainable aviation and to help meet our ambitious CO2 reduction targets. We are privileged to be working with our Australian partners in this exciting project.”

Fuel from eucalyptus mallee trees has been used in aviation fuel in the past, but not in commercial airlines.

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