Airlines join Algal Biomass Organization

Algae could be a solution to help airlines produce lower carbon emissions

Air New Zealand, Continental, Virgin Atlantic Airways, and biofuel technology developer UOP, a Honeywell company, have announced they will join the Algal Biomass Organization (ABO).

The Algal Biomass Organization is a US-based not-for-profit organisation dedicated to the advancement through research and education of the field of algal biomass production technologies. The organisation facilitates commercialisation and market development of microalgae biomass specifically for biofuels production and greenhouse gas abatement. Together with Boeing, which co-chairs the ABO, the airlines are advocating for the identification and acceleration of new generations of fuel sources for the industry that have lower life cycle carbon emissions.

Air New Zealand Deputy Chief Executive Norm Thompson says the Algal Biomass Organization will play a pivotal role in the development of more sustainable fuels for aviation. “No one airline, research organization or scientific group holds the key to making air travel more environmentally sustainable. It must be a collective effort across research organizations, aircraft and engine manufacturers, fuel companies, refiners and airlines. Therefore, we are naturally delighted to be at the forefront of this latest effort to take aviation into a greener future,” says Mr Thompson.

“Algae really could be a solution to help airlines produce lower carbon emissions. Crucially, it is a source of fuel which doesn’t lead to deforestation or the taking away of land or water from the cultivation of essential food crops,” said Virgin Atlantic President, Sir Richard Branson. “Virgin Atlantic is delighted to be supporting the work of the Algal Biomass Organization in building knowledge of this innovative new technology, and accelerating the commercialization of algae to help produce a more sustainable aviation industry.”

“The use of algae and other second generation feedstocks is absolutely necessary to achieve long-term, sustainable biofuels,” said Jennifer Holmgren, director of UOP Renewable Energy and Chemicals. “The efforts of companies like Boeing, Air New Zealand, Continental and Virgin Atlantic Airways will help to bring the focus and effort that is needed to ultimately make these resources a commercial reality.”

With a portfolio approach to sustainable biofuels likely necessary, multiple biomass sources including algae, jatropha, halophytes and others are being evaluated against stringent sustainability criteria including non-competition with food, fresh water or land-use resources. The group’s involvement in the ABO highlights the aviation industry’s move toward identification, development and certification of advanced generation fuel sources. Working with refining segment leaders like UOP will help ensure that advanced generation biofuels can be produced in the most sustainable and energy efficient manner possible.

To effectively address a high volume of claims being made regarding algae and its potential, 400 leading global algae experts established the Algal Biomass Organization to advocate for viable algae markets and technologies. Unlike other second-generation biofuel options, algae will require technological breakthroughs to become viable and the ABO will provide a single, collective voice regarding ongoing efforts.


Biofuels International, 2008-06.25 and Biofuelreview, 2008-06-19.


Air New Zealand
Algae Biomass Organization (ABO)
Continental, Corp.
Virgin Atlantic Airlines


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