By bizjet on biofuel

Gulfstream business jets have set more speed records using alternative fuels.

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A Gulfstream G550, which in May 2019 set a transatlantic speed record powered by biofuel.
Gulfstream Aerospace

GULFSTREAM AEROSPACE regularly sets new speed and distance records with its business jets. The manufacturer now holds no fewer than 90 such records, a recent achievement being the ultra-long-range G650ER setting a speed and distance record between Singapore and Tucson, Arizona, by flying at an average speed of Mach 0.78 over a distance of 8,379 nautical miles (15,518km).

In May 2019, one of the company’s G550 test aircraft connected the 3,591 nautical miles (6,651km) between Charleston in South Carolina and Farnborough in Hampshire at an average speed of Mach 0.85 in seven hours and 13 minutes.

From Farnborough, the G550 flew to Geneva for the 2019 European Business Aviation Convention & Exhibition (EBACE) where it was displayed alongside three other Gulfstreams: a G650ER, a G600 and a G280.

City-pair flights enable Gulfstream to highlight the speed and range capabilities of its aircraft, but the G550’s flight between Charleston and Farnborough was notable for the company for another reason.

The aircraft completed the journey using biofuel: specifically, Gulfstream’s own sustainable aviation jet fuel (SAJF) produced by California-based World Energy and distributed by World Fuel Services.

Indeed, all four Gulfstream jets shown at EBACE this year flew to the event using this alternative drop-in fuel, rather than 100% Jet A1. (Incidentally, the G280’s journey to Geneva, from Farmingdale in New York, a distance of 3,425 nautical miles (6,343km), was completed in seven hours and six minutes at an average speed of Mach 0.81, itself another city-pair record.)

Sustainable alternative jet fuel

Charles Etter, staffscientist for environmental and regulatory affairs at Gulfstream Aerospace, told AIR International: “The SAJF used by Gulfstream is manufactured by World Energy at its Paramount, California, refinery. To produce SAJF, the manufacturer takes hydroprocessed esters and fatty acids [HEFA] and blends them with conventional petroleumbased Jet A fuel. The feedstock or raw material World Energy converts into HEFA are oils, fats and greases.”

Gulfstream’s involvement in biofuels is not new. Back in 2011, the company made headlines when it flew a demonstrator G450 to that year’s Paris Air Show using a 50:50 blend of conventional Jet-A1 and Honeywell Green Jet Fuel, in the first transatlantic crossing by a bizjet using biofuel.

Subsequently, Gulfstream committed to establishing a supply of biofuel it could use for its own operations and, eventually, recommend and sell to its customers. Since 2016, Gulfstream has used SAJF in daily operations for corporate, demonstration, customer support and flight test fleets.

The company had by June flown nearly 800,000 nautical miles (1.5 million km) using SAJF, which it says has saved, “more than 870 tonnes [1.9 million lb] of carbon dioxide”. Five of Gulfstream’s city-pair records have been attained with aircraft using biofuel.

Gulfstream made the SAJF available to its customers earlier this year. The company says: “It is safe, approved, does not hinder aircraft performance and provides a longterm benefit to the environment.” It adds that the fuel, fully certified by the US Federal AviationAdministration, meets the same fuel specification as conventional Jet-A1 and offers “at least the same performance and safety standards”. Each gallon of fuel burned achieves more than a 50% reduction in carbon dioxide emissions, relative to petroleumbased Jet-A1, on a lifecycle basis, it says.

Supply and demand

Gulfstream now maintains a supply of SAJF dedicated to customers at its Long Beach facility in California, the fuel itself being refined by World Energy at the Paramount plant, approximately ten miles (16km) from Long Beach.

Etter told AIR International the facility began selling SAJF on a regular basis on May 16, 2019, with the company’s dual maintenance/completions site also starting to use SAJF for completion flights on May 20. The company says it has sold SAJF to several customers. The first such sale was made to a Gulfstream operator described as “a US-based multinational corporation” in February 2019.

Gulfstream President Mark Burns has said: “As an industry, we must continue to promote SAJF and its benefits and collaborate to find a solution for the infrastructure and economic challenges that impede widespread use of the fuel around the world. We …are taking as many opportunities as we can to raise the profile of this sustainable resource.”

Etter noted SAJF has now been flown on a number of Gulfstream aircraft, including the G650ER, G650, G600, G550, G500, G450, G280 and G150.

The fuel’s usage on numerous aircraft, those city-pair flights and ultimately the availability of SAJF for customers all show this biofuel is an operational reality. Gulfstream says SAJF supports the business aviation industry’s goals (set by the National Business Aviation Association, the General Aviation Manufacturers Association and the International Business Aviation Council) to achieve carbon-neutral growth by 2020, improve fuel effciency and reduce carbon dioxide emissions.

This bigger picture doesn’t necessarily mean there are no obstacles to the wider use of SAJF and other biofuels, however.

Etter acknowledged: “With the low cost of petroleum experienced today, SAJF struggles to get a foothold in the marketplace due to price disparities. Another key factor is a lack of demand. Demand has not taken offfor a variety of reasons, including a misconception by some operators that SAJF is not suitable for engines on business aircraft. SAJF meets all the same specifications and burns cleaner than traditional petroleum-based Jet-A fuel.”

Etter thinks several things need to happen to overcome these obstacles: “We must continue to promote SAJF and its benefits and collaborate to find a solution for the infrastructure and economic challenges that impact widespread use of the fuel around the world.

“Aircraft manufacturers such as Gulfstream should continue to invest in research and development to drive innovation that leads to more fuel-effcient, quieter and more sustainable aircraft.

“Demand from operators in the form of long-term offtake agreements would increase investment. This would lead to easier access to the fuel, because it would be available in more locations worldwide. Also, having more SAJF produced and available should help drive down the cost.”