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The whole of Sweden could fly green thanks to Swedish forests

Published: 12 March 2018

Researchers at Luleå University of Technology, working in collaboration with, among others, associates from IVL Swedish Environmental Research Institute, have conducted a preliminary study which shows that fossil-based aviation fuels used for Swedish domestic flights can be replaced by biofuels produced from forest residues. The researchers now want to demonstrate the production technology behind the biofuels as soon as possible to clear the way for their use on commercial domestic flights in Sweden.

– We have found a solution where the fuel used for Swedish domestic flights today can be replaced by biofuel produced from Swedish forestry raw materials in the near future. We know that there are production technologies that work and we know that the Swedish forest industry can potentially supply forest residues in large quantities. The potential is theoretically more than large enough to sustainably produce enough biofuel for both domestic and international flights in Sweden, says Fredrik Granberg, Project Manager at Energy Engineering, Luleå University of Technology. 

Sweden can become self-sufficient in biofuel for domestic flight

Luleå researchers conducted a pilot study in 2017 for biofuel production that was, funded under Vinnova's Challenge-Driven Innovation program. IVL Swedish Environmental Research Institute was the project owner. The consortium also included Fly Green Fund, Swedavia, COWI, Jämtlandsgas and SkyNRG, which is a company with specialised expertise in the production and certification of aviation biofuel. The results of the study show that biomass gasification, combined with a liquefaction process known as Fischer Tropsch synthesis, can be used to competitively and sustainably produce aviation biofuels from forest residues. The energy efficiency of biofuel production is about 40% for the two most promising raw materials: branches and tops (GROT) and black liquor. The researchers therefore conclude that by using their proposed technology Sweden could become self-sufficient in biofuel for domestic flights. There is great synergetic potential in Sweden’s forest industry. 
– We have a forest industry with highly developed and efficient raw material logistics and that gives us a large advantage. Our well-developed pulp industry is also well-suited for integrated production of biofuels, which can lower production costs. On the development side, there is a great deal of technical knowledge has been accumulated, partly from research on biofuels for road transport financed by the Swedish Energy Agency, which has significant synergies with aviation biofuel, says Erik Furusjö, researcher at IVL Swedish Environmental Research Institute and Adjunct Professor of Energy Engineering at Luleå University of Technology.

The pilot / demonstration project planned as the next step will provide aviation fuel in quantities sufficient for carrying out commercial domestic flights. The researchers are now working to find funding and partners for the project. Such a production demonstration can be carried out at LTU Green Fuels plant in Piteå. There, the first process step, transforming liquid biomass into an energy-rich gas known as synthesis gas, is already built and tested. For the process step that comes after, the actual production of green aviation fuel, a partner is needed that can provide and develop Fischer-Tropsch (FT) technology with jet fuel as the main product. Results from the demonstration project would be used to minimize technical and market risks for a later scale-up to a large scale commercial facility. 
By producing an aviation fuel that would be able to meet future certification requirements, the time to commercialization can be shortened. The total cost of a demonstration project at LTU Green Fuels, which includes the reconstruction of the pilot plant and at least two years of fuel production, is estimated at approximately 150 MSEK.
– Our plan for the development of green aviation fuel produced from Swedish forest residues means that there must be a willingness to start work on technology demonstration of green aviation fuel from forest residues already as it takes 5-10 years to get to the third stage in the development chain: a first large-scale facility for commercial production, says Fredrik Granberg.

Fredrik Granberg, Project Manager

Phone: +46 (0)911 72782
Organization: Energy Engineering, TVM-GFO, Energy Science, Department of Engineering Sciences and Mathematics

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