Report: Infrastructure options for biofuel delivery to Sea-Tac

By Port of Seattle | January 16, 2017

The Port of Seattle, Boeing and Alaska Airlines recently released a first-of-its-kind study that identifies the best infrastructure options for delivering aviation biofuel to Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. In pursuit of its goal to power every flight at Sea-Tac with sustainable aviation biofuel, Sea-Tac is among the first airports in North America to work with aviation, energy and research partners to systematically evaluate all aspects to developing a commercial-scale program from scratch.

“Unlike the biofuel itself, fuel blending and delivery infrastructure cannot grow on trees,” said Port of Seattle Commissioner John Creighton. “We needed this comprehensive analysis to confirm that we can offer commercial airlines feasible and sustainable delivery options while reducing our environmental footprint and being a good neighbor to surrounding communities.”

Sustainable aviation biofuel reduces carbon dioxide emissions by 50 to 80 percent compared to fossil fuel. This is because a biofuel feedstock, or source material, absorbs carbon dioxide (CO2) during its growth cycle (e.g. photosynthesis). Using biofuel also reduces sulfur emissions, soot and particulates.

The study evaluated more than 30 sites around Washington State that could potentially support the receipt, blending, storage, and delivery infrastructure required to supply Sea-Tac Airport with up to 50 million gallons per year of sustainable alternative aviation fuel (also referred to as aviation biofuel). Potential sites were evaluated both for the ability to accommodate near-term (12-18 months) supplies of five million gallons per year and long-term (2-10 years) supplies of more than 50 million gallons per year.

In pursuing an integrated aviation biofuels supply chain, sites were selected based on the capacity to accommodate delivery of unblended biofuel by pipe, rail, barge, and/or truck, and were evaluated based on land use, zoning, and environmental considerations. The most-feasible sites were determined based on the construction costs of the needed infrastructure, environmental constraints, permitting and planning, and other contingences to help determine an overall score and final recommendation.

- A small biofuel receiving and blending facility at the Sea-Tac Airport Fuel Farm is the most cost-effective solution in the short term;

- The Anacortes-area refineries are the most cost-effective options for large volumes of aviation biofuel over the long term due to their access to marine, rail, truck, and the Olympic Pipeline; and

- The Phillips 66/Olympic Pipeline Company sites in Renton also showed potential to accommodate receipt and blending facilities for moderate-to-large biofuel volumes over the long term.

“We’re using all of the Port’s expertise and partnering with Washington State’s greatest institutions to pursue this vision of making travel more sustainable,” said Port of Seattle CEO Ted Fick. “While we increase our operations, we work relentlessly to reduce emissions, lower our waste and limit our environmental impact.”

“Commercial aviation is committed to reducing the industry’s carbon footprint, and biofuels are key to achieving that goal,” said Ellie Wood, regional director of environmental strategy for Boeing Commercial Airplanes. “We’re encouraged that this study shows the viability of making a biofuel blend available to every flight at Sea-Tac Airport. As part of our global strategy to develop and commercialize biofuel, we’re proud to support our hometown partners and keep the Pacific Northwest in the forefront of these innovative efforts.”

“This study represents a critical milestone toward powering our planes with a sustainable aviation biofuel made right here at home,” said Joe Sprague, Alaska Airlines’ senior vice president of communications and external relations. “After recently flying the first commercial flight with new biofuel made from forest residuals from the Pacific Northwest, Alaska Airlines is eager to see how biofuel flights can become a daily reality at our hometown hub at Sea-Tac.”

An aviation biofuel production plant was not considered in this feasibility study. However, once a long-term aviation biofuel source is identified, it will be an important next step to determine its relative proximity to the sites considered in the study. The closer the source of the aviation biofuel to a biofuel blending and integration facility, the lower the costs associated with the fuel.

The full study can be found at www.portseattle.org/environmental