Sea-Tac makes bio-fuel investment
Seattle Airport, Alaska Airlines and Boeing have launched a project that aims to supply carriers with sustainable biofuel by 2020.
The city's main airport, known as Sea-Tac, claims to be the first in the US to incorporate biofuel into a long-term infrastructure plan. Seattle houses Boeing's headquarters and main assembly plant and the three parties are funding a $250,000 feasibility study to assess the costs and infrastructure needed to deliver a blend of bio and conventional fuel to aircraft. The project is seen as a first step towards routine biofuel use in the near future.
Port of Seattle Commissioner John Creighton said the agreement would be a signal to airlines and biofuel producers that Sea-Tac was ready to integrate commercial-scale use of sustainable fuels. "Biofuel infrastructure will make Sea-Tac Airport an attractive option for any airline committing to use biofuel, and will assist in attracting biofuel producers to the region as part of a longer-term market development strategy," he said.
Sea-Tac is used by all 26 US airlines, but Alaska Airlines is based there and is its biggest carrier. Alaska's Joe Sprague, senior vice president of communications and external relations, said the airline wanted to incorporate biofuel into flight operations at one or more of its hubs by 2020, with Sea-Tac as a first choice.
"Biofuel offers the greatest way to further reduce our emissions," said Sprague. "This study is a critical step in advancing our environmental goals and stimulating aviation biofuel production in the Pacific Northwest."
The infrastructure study will be complete by the end of 2016. Currently, biofuels are not produced in Washington State and must be imported by road, rail or barge. To overcome this, Boeing will provide expertise about developing a regional supply chain to serve the airport. It will also advise on fuel types, producers, processing technologies and integration with aircraft. 
"Drop-in" biofuel is added to conventional blends and reduces CO2 emissions by 50-80%. In 2011, Alaska became the first airline to fly multiple flights using a 20% blend of biofuel made from cooking oil and waste animal fat. In 2016, Alaska plans to make the first commercial flight using alcohol-to-jet fuel technology.