Alternative fuel can power 15 pct of flights by 2020: Airbus

Alternative fuels could power 15 percent of global air traffic by 2020 and 30 percent by 2030, European aircraft-maker Airbus said at the Dubai Airshow on Tuesday.

"If we get the right sources, it is possible that 15 percent of the world's jet fuel will come from sustainable sources by 2020, and 30 percent will come from sustainable sources by 2030," said Ross Walker, engineering programme manager for alternative fuels at Airbus.

"The challenge is finding sustainable feedstocks" that do not take land and water used for food production, he said.

Walker said the alternative or sustainable fuels he was referring to were based on gas or biomass and converted to liquid.

He described algae, which can be grown in salt water, as a promising source of biomass for alternative fuels. "We believe this is the golden chalice we've been looking for."

"If an area the size of the United Arab Emirates were planted with algae, it could produce enough bio jet fuel to support the world's civil aviation industry," he said.

Airbus was focusing on "drop-in fuels," or fuels that can be used in existing aircraft without modifications, he said.

Walker pointed out that the whole aircraft manufacturing industry, including engine and airframe manufacturers, were collaborating on alternative fuel projects.

Airbus conducted its first test of an aircraft using a 50-50 mix of GTL and kerosene in one engine in 2008, while a Qatar Airways Airbus A340 flew from London to Qatar burning a GTL-kerosene mix in all four engines last month.

Walker said Airbus hopes to conduct a test flight of an A320 burning a 50-50 BTL-kerosene mixture some time next year.