JAL plans Japan’s first waste-to-fuel plant

Japan Airlines is building the country’s first demonstration facility for turning trash into fuel in Chiba Prefecture as it strives to put the technology to practical use by 2020.

JAL has begun working with the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, Toyo Engineering and other partners on a basic design for the plant, which is expected to cost just under 5 billion yen ($45 million). The facility will turn hydrogen and carbon monoxide generated at a waste disposal plant in Chiba into jet fuel using catalytic agents.

The resulting product will be mixed with kerosene, a traditional petroleum-derived fuel, after JAL receives the necessary approval for its use in airplanes. The airline plans to use the new fuel in flights during the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

JAL will also be selecting a company to commercialize the new technology. It estimates that large-scale production could lower the price of the trash-based fuel to about $120 a barrel, on a par with kerosene.

ANA Holdings, parent of rival All Nippon Airways, has also announced plans to commercialize an algae-based fuel by 2020 in partnership with Euglena.

The airline industry has agreed to halt the growth in carbon dioxide emissions by 2020. The agreement has led many companies worldwide to adopt alternative plant-based fuels. Because plants absorb carbon dioxide while they grow, using them as raw materials do not contribute to a net increase in emissions. Both JAL and ANA have experimented with alternative fuels, but their efforts fell short of their foreign counterparts’ due to the lack of a domestic production facility.

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