Photo: Enos Moura Filho

Aviation fuel consumption in China is likely to double over the remainder of the decade from a current 20 million tonnes to more than 40 million tonnes by 2020, with aviation biofuels expected to make up more than a half of this increase, said Li Jian, Deputy Director of the Civil Aviation Administration of China.

According to a report in China Daily, Li said the move to develop biofuels is prompted by the EU’s new emissions trading scheme. Air China carried out the country’s first biofuel demonstration flight last October using a jatropha blend supplied by the PetroChina unit of China National Petroleum.

Rival Sinopec, China’s biggest oil refiner, has started sending aviation biofuel it has developed from animal fat and vegetable oils to CAAC for testing, with a view to commercialisation. Li said the 12 million tonnes of jet biofuel would have a market value of over 120 billion yuan ($19bn) and now that China had the technology, it only needed to produce the fuels more cheaply.

PetroChina, along with Honeywell UOP, supplied around 15 tonnes of the jatropha fuel for the Air China flight of a Boeing 747 and the oil company has plans to build a refinery to produce 60,000 tonnes per year by 2014. The jatropha was grown in southwest China. China National Petroleum Corp, also known as Sinopec, said this week that it had successfully produced around 70 tonnes of aviation biofuel at its Hangzhou refinery plant since December, following laboratory research it had been carrying out since 2009.

The company, which already supplies 73% of China’s overall domestic jet fuel production, claimed the plant was capable of supplying an annual output of 6,000 tonnes after “key breakthroughs” had been achieved during 2011.

Earlier this week, CAAC began reviewing the airworthiness of Sinopec’s fuel, in which it will conduct, in accordance with international standards, a series of lab performance tests, compatibility tests and then test flights. The fuel is made from a variety of animal fat and vegetable oils using Sinopec’s hydrogenation technology, catalyst system and production procedures.

The company said it was actively seeking new raw materials to produce aviation biofuel, including waste cooking oil and seaweed. By 2020, CAAC aims to reduce aviation greenhouse gas emissions by 22% from 2005 levels.