Studying benefits of synthetic jet fuel

Aircraft Engineering and Aerospace Technology

ISSN: 0002-2667

Article publication date: 21 March 2008



(2008), "Studying benefits of synthetic jet fuel", Aircraft Engineering and Aerospace Technology, Vol. 80 No. 2.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2008, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Studying benefits of synthetic jet fuel

Article Type: Features From: Aircraft Engineering and Aerospace Technology: An International Journal, Volume 80, Issue 2.

Recently, at the Dubai Airshow Qatar Airways, Qatar Petroleum (QP), Qatar Fuel Company (WOQOD), Airbus, Rolls-Royce plc, Shell International Petroleum Company Limited and the Qatar Science and Technology Park signed an agreement to research the potential benefits of synthetic jet fuel in aviation engines.

The objective of this study is to address the feasibility and potential benefits of using gas to liquid (GTL) synthetic jet fuels. GTL is a technology that takes natural gas and converts it to liquid kerosene. The properties of GTL Kerosene are largely similar to conventional jet fuel making it a “drop in” replacement for today's kerosene, capable of being used in today's aero engines, aircraft and airports without any modifications.

The focus of the research will be on evaluating potential improvements in local air quality, fuel economy and overall reduction in CO2 and other emissions. Specific studies will also look at operational benefits for airlines, such as enhanced payload-range, reduced fuel-burn and increased engine durability.

GTL synthetic jet fuels are currently being developed to meet international standards required for use in aviation under the auspices of the industry-wide commercial alternative aviation fuels initiative (CAAFI) of which Airbus, Rolls-Royce and Shell are all members.

The synthetic fuels will initially be mixed with standard kerosene to enable the group to model aircraft and engine performance, with a view to exploring the potential of fully synthetic fuels.

Shell, Rolls Royce and Airbus parent EADS are strategic partners of the Qatar Science and Technology Park (QSTP). Some of the activity will be carried out at the state-of-the-art QSTP facility in Doha.

Akbar Al Baker, CEO of Qatar Airways, said: “Qatar Airways has one of the youngest, fastest-growing and most fuel efficient fleets in the world and is committed to being in the forefront of environmentally-friendly synthetic fuel development for commercial aviation.”

Saad Sherida Al-Kaabi, Director, Oil & Gas Ventures at QP said: “Qatar Petroleum, as a major player in the global gas industry, is committed to contribute to the improvement of the local and global environment. GTL, as a cleaner jet fuel, offers strong environmental benefits and opens another important outlet for our natural gas to the international market.”

“Airbus is committed to becoming an eco-efficient enterprise, growing and adding value with less and less impact on the environment,” says Christian Scherer, executive Vice President, Strategy and Future Programmes, Airbus. “No one industry has all the answers, and as companies pool together in a united front to research options for alternative fuels, we are delighted to co-operate with Qatar, Rolls-Royce and Shell. We are engaging in a project aimed at understanding the potential of GTL Kerosene Fuel to power aircraft. For Airbus, co-operation remains key to finding technology driven solutions that address global and local environmental challenges facing us.”

Mick Forey, senior Vice President Airlines for Rolls-Royce, said: “Rolls- Royce has a long history of investing in technologies to improve the environmental impact of its products and we have an important part to play in developing an understanding of what the industry can achieve. We are committed to working with partners in the aerospace sector and are proud to be part of this initiative to deliver a further step change in the environmental performance of our civil aero engines.”

Sjoerd Post, Vice President Shell Aviation, said: “As Shell investment in the Pearl GTL plant shows, we are committed to the region and developing cleaner fuels for our customers. We are excited to be working along side major aviation industry manufactures and customers to determine ways of identifying the benefits of using synthetic fuels in jet fuel faster, and with a more holistic approach.”

“WOQOD is proud to join this group of world-class companies and institutions in this unique effort to further develop the potential of synthetic jet fuel,” stated Mr Nasser Ibrahim Fakhroo, Director of Operations at WOQOD. “We believe we are witnessing the dawn of a new era for the world led by Qatar as the potential that GTL has to improve fuel economy and reduce emissions is very significant,” added Mr Fakhroo.

Dr Tidu Maini Executive Chairman of QSTP: “We are delighted that the consortium will be carrying out aspects of this important project in Qatar and recognizes our mission to create a hub for research in the region.”

Owing to start up around the end of the decade, Shell and QP are currently building the world-scale integrated Pearl GTL complex that will help make Qatar the GTL capital of the world. GTL kerosene is an important part of Pearl GTL's product slate, and being offered to markets as a natural gas derived synthetic component in jet fuel.

Located in Ras Laffan Industrial City in Qatar, Pearl GTL is an integrated project that will produce 120,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day of condensate, liquefied petroleum gas and ethane, and 140,000 barrels per day of cleaner, high quality GTL fuels and products. This will include 12,000 barrels per day equivalent to around 500,000 metric tonnes per annum of GTL Kerosene. Pearl GTL is not only the world's largest integrated GTL project, but also the largest energy project ever launched within the borders of Qatar.

QP, formerly Qatar General Petroleum Corporation, is a state- owned corporation established in 1974 responsible for all phases of the oil and gas industry in Qatar. The principal activities of QP and its subsidiaries and joint ventures cover exploration, drilling and production operations, transport, storage, marketing and sale of crude oil, natural gas liquids, liquefied natural gas, GTL, refined products, petrochemicals and fertilizers. In addition to its operations, QP carries out is activities through its various subsidiaries and joint ventures such as Qatargas, RasGas, Industries Qatar, QP International, QVC, Q-Chem and others.

Qatar Fuel Company “WOQOD” was established in accordance with the Emiri Decree of 2002 as a share holding company listed in the Doha Securities Market with a paid up capital of QR 300 million. The company has the sole concession right for storage, distribution and marketing of all petroleum products in the State of Qatar. WOQOD's vision is to be the leading petroleum and related services marketing company in the region. The company has recorded remarkable growth rates since its commissioning. Total net profit for the third-quarter of 2007 has reached QR 432 million and total assets of the company has reached QR 2,741 million. WOQOD is planning to expand its activities outside the state of Qatar and will explore all possible opportunities for new investment.

Qatar Science and Technology Park fosters the development and commercialisation of technology in Qatar, a rising star in the Arabian Gulf with the world's third largest gas reserves and a remarkable vision for human development. As part of the renowned Qatar Foundation, the science park is co-located with campuses of Carnegie Mellon, Texas A&M, Weill Cornell and other premier universities. It provides research- friendly premises for companies from around the world, plus an incubator and investment for technology start-ups.

The CAAFI is an aviation industry consortium formed to coordinate the development and commercialisation of “drop-in” alternative fuels (i.e. fuels that can directly supplement or replace petroleum derived jet fuels). Under the auspices of the Federal Aviation Administration, the Certification and Qualification panel of CAAFI has outlined a roadmap for alternative fuels approvals including synthetic fuels derived from the Fisher-Tropsch process.

This roadmap supports the approval of a 50/50 semi-synthetic blend of Jet A/ A1 according to the ASTM D 1655 fuel/additive approval protocol by late 2008 and a 100 per cent fuel specification by the end of the decade in time for the start up of the Pearl GTL plant in Qatar.

There may be possibilities to conduct flight trials ahead of a world wide industry approval but this will depend upon discussions with individual equipment manufacturers and regulators.

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