According to The Asahi Shimbun, a start-up company and Japan’s leading airline plan to power aircraft with jet fuel derived from tiny algae to reduce the environmental burden caused by air travel.
Euglena Co., a developer of fuel and other products from euglena, recently announced a tie-up with All Nippon Airways Co. (ANA) to set up an eco-friendly biofuel plant in Yokohama.
A total of 3 billion yen (US$24 million) will be spent to build the plant, which will produce 125 kilolitres of fuel based on euglena, a genus of protists similar to algae, annually.
“We will use our innovative technology to contribute to the world,” Euglena President Mitsuru Izumo said on Dec. 1.
Under the plan, the Yokohama facility will start operations in 2018, and the biofuel will be used for commercial ANA aircraft in 2020 at the earliest.
ANA said it plans to initially use the fuel for short routes, such as flights connecting Haneda Airport in Tokyo and Osaka Airport in Itami, Hyogo Prefecture. A biofuel-powered jet is expected to make a round trip each week.
Euglena photosynthesizes and absorbs carbon dioxide when it grows and proliferates. This gives euglena-derived fuel a distinct green advantage for use in jet aircraft, which require the burning of a huge amount of fuel to operate.
Chiyoda Corp. is expected to design and construct the facility, while Itochu Enex Co. will help Euglena secure non-euglena ingredients for the biofuel.
Isuzu Motors Ltd., which is currently engaged in a joint project with Euglena to develop a bus that runs on euglena-based fuel, will also join the venture.
But production costs for the eco-friendly energy source are still higher than those for ordinary jet fuel.
Euglena and its partners intend to build another plant that will have 400 times the production capacity of Yokohama factory in 2020 or later to lower the price of euglena fuel and increase the green fuel’s competitiveness.
The company is researching and developing ways to promote the proliferation of algae and create fuel from the fat and oil extracted from euglena.
At the Yokohama plant, Euglena will first make biofuel using the fat and oil derived from euglena cultivated on Ishigakijima Island in Okinawa Prefecture, and then mix 10 percent of the algae-derived biofuel into normal jet fuel, or kerosene.
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