Renewable Fuel Gets Green Light
With every takeoff of a Field and Airborne Support Teams jet, or a demonstrator or test aircraft from Gulfstream’s Savannah, Georgia, world headquarters, the company’s prominence as the leader in business aviation will soon become more pronounced—this time, in the use of renewable fuel.
Gulfstream recently became the first business aviation manufacturer to move toward using a drop-in renewable fuel in its daily flight operations. Gulfstream is awaiting delivery of the fuel, which is blended with conventional petroleum-based Jet-A and will power the two FAST aircraft—dedicated Gulfstream G150s that deliver parts and maintenance technicians to support operators. The blended fuel will also be used for corporate flights and flight-test aircraft.
Gulfstream plans to offer the renewable fuel to customers flying into and out of the Gulfstream Savannah Service Center when additional quantities are available.
“This is a significant step in the development of a rapidly growing renewable fuel business,” says Mark Burns, president, Gulfstream. “Gulfstream is proud of our leadership role in helping achieve a more sustainable future by demonstrating the ease by which this fuel can be integrated into normal operations.”
Incorporating renewable fuel into daily operations is part of Gulfstream’s comprehensive approach to environmental sustainability. The company has long leveraged its technological innovation to deliver more fuel-efficient aircraft with engines that produce fewer emissions.
The implementation of renewable fuel will mark a significant milestone. Powering company aircraft with this advanced fuel will boost Gulfstream’s efforts to reach a pair of business aviation industry goals: carbon-neutral growth by 2020 and a 50-percent reduction in carbon dioxide emissions by 2050 relative to 2005.
The National Business Aviation Association, the General Aviation Manufacturers Association and the International Business Aviation Council established those goals in 2009 as well as one calling for an improvement in fuel-efficiency by an average of 2 percent a year until 2020.
Gulfstream has been exploring green energy solutions to powering aircraft for many years. The initiative gained momentum in 2007 when a large operator of Gulfstream aircraft inquired about certifying its fleet for use of alternative fuels.
Rising to the challenge, Gulfstream engineers researched the many renewable options and any potential effects those fuels might have on performance and maintenance.
Gulfstream found quick success. In 2011, a G450 became the first business aircraft to fly across the Atlantic Ocean using biofuel. The jet made the trans-Atlantic flight to the Paris Air Show using a 50-50 blend of a biofuel made from the camelina plant and standard Jet-A in one engine.
A year later, Gulfstream flew its entire demonstration fleet of five aircraft from Savannah to Orlando, Florida, for the 2012 NBAA Convention using a similar blend of biofuel.
Those achievements convinced Gulfstream leadership that renewable fuel is a viable energy source for the company’s daily flight operations. The focus then became identifying the ideal blend as well as a supplier who could produce the quantity needed.
“The goal was to find a way to utilize renewable fuel on a regular basis,” says Charles Etter, technical fellow, Environmental & Regulatory Affairs, Gulfstream. “As far as the fuel goes, the timing was right; the availability was there.”
Gulfstream contracted with AltAir Fuels to supply a sustainable, advanced renewable fuel. The California-based refiner, which also provides renewable fuel to a major airline, uses agricultural waste often rendered into products such as candles, soaps and cosmetics to produce its low-carbon, drop-in fuel replacement.
AltAir blends the renewable fuel with petroleum-based Jet-A to create a fuel that provides the equivalent performance and requires no powerplant modification. The blended fuel is certified to meet the same industry specifications as Jet-A.
What is significantly different about the fuel is the environmental impact. Each gallon of the renewable fuel burned is expected to achieve a more than 50 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, relative to conventional jet fuel, on a life-cycle basis.
“Gulfstream is proud of our leadership role in helping achieve a more sustainable future by demonstrating the ease by which this fuel can be integrated into normal operations.”
A Sustainable Future
How flight is powered is evolving, with ongoing research into converting sustainable materials like organic matter or even waste into biofuel as well as experimentation with solar and electric power.
Just as in other technological areas, Gulfstream is committed to retaining its position on the leading edge of renewable fuel development. Use of renewable fuel for daily operations is Gulfstream’s first foray into leveraging the benefits of alternative energy sources. It won’t be the last.
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