Gulfstream Waiting for Wider Biofuel Availability

Gulfstream continues to adopt the use of biofuels where possible to reduce its carbon footprint, but laments the lack of availability around the world. Derek Zimmerman, president of Gulfstream product support, told BJT sister publication Aviation International News that the G600 and G550 on the static display recently at the European Business Aviation Convention & Exhibition (EBACE) used a 70/30 percent blend of jet-A and biofuel, but this was possible only because the aircraft came directly from its base in Savannah, Georgia, where Gulfstream has its own tank, supplied by World Fuel Services (WFS).

Zimmerman said the lack of airports supplying biofuel was demonstrated by its own supply having to come from a refinery on the U.S. West Coast, meaning it must be trucked across the U.S. It comes from Paramount, California–based AltAir Fuels.

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Gulfstream flew a Honeywell-owned G450 to EBACE 2011, marking the first transatlantic flight by a business jet using biofuel (a 50/50 blend). Honeywell UOP has been at the forefront of developing biofuels and has partnered with AltAir to retrofit an existing refinery to produce it.

“AltAir has worked extensively with Honeywell’s UOP to demonstrate the commercial viability of the Honeywell Green Jet and Green Diesel process,” said the company. The facility converts non-edible natural oils and agricultural waste into approximately 40 million gallons of low-carbon biofuels and chemicals per year. These advanced biofuels are drop-in replacements, requiring no modification to aero engines or aircraft, added AltAir.

AltAir Fuels created a strategic partnership with World Fuel Services (and United Airlines) to offer cost-competitive sustainable biofuels. “[These companies] agreed to buy 30 million gallons of low-carbon, renewable jet fuel over a multi-year period,” said AltAir.

Zimmerman said the supply to Gulfstream's tank in Savannah had allowed it to use the biofuel blend for its flight test fleet—for example, the G500 and G600—and its demonstration flights. “In 2015 we signed a three-year agreement with World Fuel to get 70/30 biofuel,” said Zimmerman.

He added that the manufacturer’s fleet had flown around 500,000 hours using biofuels, which are to jet-A specification and in fact “have a slight performance advantage” as they are denser.

“We wanted to hold the infrastructure,” said Zimmerman, “But there are still supply-and-demand challenges. We would like to have an East Coast refinery” to supply the factory. At the moment, the logistics mean the fuel is at approximately “a 50 percent premium” to jet-A, most of this being accounted for by shipping. He estimated a 20 percent increase would be down to just lack of production efficiency, due to far less biofuel than jet-A being produced at present.

Zimmerman said he would also like to find refineries in Europe and Asia and to help its operators to adopt biofuel, perhaps starting with its own service facilities around the world. Already, the company estimates it is cutting one million pounds of CO2 a year from its carbon footprint, “on a full-lifecycle approach.”

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