Ottawa opens competition to create green jet fuel

File photo of an Air Canada plane.
File photo of an Air Canada plane. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Christopher Katsarov

The race is on in Canada to come up with a Canadian solution for greener jet fuel.

In an event at the Alberta Aviation Museum in Edmonton on Friday, Natural Resources Minister Amarjeet Sohi kicked off “The Sky’s the Limit Challenge.”

Innovators can win $2 million apiece for four teams who develop the most innovative solutions during an 18-month competition to produce the most economical and environmentally sustainable aviation fuel. An additional $5-million grand prize is on the line.

On top of that, there’s also a Cross-Canada Flight Competition where the first to fuel a Canadian commercial flight using a minimum 10 per cent blend of made-in-Canada biojet fuel will win $1 million.

“Flying in Canada is a necessity,” Sohi told reporters. “We need to make sure our Canadian industry is remaining competitive, that we are producing biofuels here in Canada that can be used by not only the private sector but also by government fleets.”

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The competition is to fill a void of locally produced product.

“We are getting it from the United States,” Sohi said. “So why would we not encourage our own businesses and support the innovation that they’re leading? There are companies here in Edmonton that have been piloting and exploring options of creating a more sustainable aviation fuel.”

Mike McNaney, WestJet’s vice-president of industry, corporate and airport affairs, said this development will improve Alberta’s economy.

“We have the feedstock, we have the capabilities to produce it in Canada.”

McNaney said biojet fuel has already been used in flights during the “proof of concept” stage. He said the next step is to develop it on a commercial scale.

“It would be commercially produced, high-quality biojet [fuel] that could supply the tank farms and the airports in Canada,” he said. “Obviously it has to meet safety specs and operational specs, which it will do. And it will enable carriers that are coming in here to actually upload biojet [fuel] here as opposed to uploading commercially in other jurisdictions where it is available.”
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Air Canada has flown eight individual biofuel flights since 2012 according to Teresa Ehman, the director of environmental affairs for the airline. That includes the one in Alberta’s capital in May, when they kicked off the Edmonton to San Fransisco run.

“Not a drop of Canadian made bio-fuel was in any of those flights,” she said. “And it made us very sad.”

The industry has set targets of carbon-neutral growth by 2020, and a 50 per cent reduction in CO2 emissions by 2050.

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