Pigs might fry: a sustainable aviation tale

Qantas has successfully flown its first flight using fuel distilled from recycled cooking oil, but a look at the data suggests the aviation sector has plenty to do to convert to more sustainable fuels.

Less than six years after an Australian senior energy bureaucrat announced in a Parliamentary hearing that new technologies can overcome peak oil (“if the price of eggs is high enough, even the roosters will start to lay”) this “chooks-to-liquids” fuel (CTL1) has been further developed into a generation two fuel called “cooking-to-liquids” (CTL2).

In a landmark flight from Sydney to Adelaide last Friday, a Qantas A330 used, in one of its engines, 50 per cent of A1 jet fuel distilled from recycled cooking oil procured from McDonald’s fast food stores in the US.

The media was quick to join the action, giving a helping hand to an unidentified fish & chip shop, thus paving the way for what will hopefully become a domestic source of fuel for Australia’s booming air traffic.

And passengers loved it, too. Not only because of feeling good for perceived environmental benefits. The pilot reported passengers immediately wanted to benefit from a ‘frequent frying points’ program. How would that work? Easy. In the year 2525 (err, 2025), if airlines are still alive, passengers would need to show 1,000 receipts from fast food outlets before being able to buy a ticket.

This bizarre publicity stunt comes shortly after a committee found that Sydney needs a second airport. How about that: the world’s first bio airport!

Australia’s used cooking oil reserves (3P)

Let’s do some back-of-the-envelope calculations. How much recycled cooking oil do we have? There are conflicting reports. They range from 50,000 tonnes per year (Natural Fuels Australia Ltd) to an upper limit of around 100 ML (CSIRO) – quite a big difference.

https://rirdc.infoservices.com.au/downloads/07-070.pdf

Being optimistic we will take the upper limit, assume that 1 ML of oil can be turned into 1 ML of Jet A1 and compare this with actual aviation turbine fuel consumption in Australia:

See that black line at the bottom-right of the graph? That’s the start for sustainable aviation.

Flying outlook 2025:  An elite of waiting passengers is recharging their frequent frying point cards before boarding. Due to the limited number of bio fuel flights departure indicators have been replaced by recycled cooking oil information. The catch: airlines have introduced weight surcharges for obese passengers.

For more details, visit http://crudeoilpeak.info/  which contains an extended version of this article