Boeing, Comac Open China Energy Technology Center

 - August 20, 2012, 9:00 AM
Comac president He Dongfeng (left) and former Boeing Commercial Airplanes president and CEO Jim Albaugh sign a collaboration agreement on March 6 centering on plans for a sustainable energy research facility, just opened on August 16. (Photo: Boeing).

Boeing and China’s Comac opened a new joint-venture facility in Beijing last week to study biofuels refinement and improvements to air traffic management. Its first project involves a study of the prospects for refining used cooking oil, often described in China as “gutter oil,” into sustainable aviation biofuel.

Funded by both companies and part of Comac’s new Beijing Aeronautical Science and Research Institute, the Boeing-Comac Aviation Energy Conservation and Emissions Reductions Technology Center collaborates with Chinese universities and research institutions on both sustainable energy and efforts to improve ATM efficiency.

“Energy conservation and emission reduction has currently become the hotspot and focus of the global aviation sector, and our collaboration with Boeing in this regard will have profound impacts in China as well as the world,” said Shi Jianzhong, vice president of Comac. “Meanwhile, [the new facility will function] as a demonstrative advanced technology center and to make contributions to the development of the aviation industry in China and the world with the concerted efforts of both sides.”

“These industry issues cannot be solved by one company alone,” added Marc Allen, president of Boeing China. “Our work with Comac continues what is now four decades of Boeing partnership with airlines, government agencies, suppliers and research institutions to support the development of China’s aviation industry.”

The Boeing-Comac Technology Center’s first research project aims to identify contaminants in “gutter oil” and processes meant to treat and clean it for use as jet fuel. China consumes approximately 29 million tons of cooking oil annually, while its aviation system uses 20 million tons of jet fuel. Finding ways to convert discarded “gutter oil” into jet fuel could enhance regional biofuel supplies and improve biofuel’s affordability, according to Boeing.

The Civil Aviation Administration of China has forecast that passenger traffic in China will surpass 300 million this year and will reach 1.5 billion passengers in 2030. Boeing has estimated that Chinese airlines will need to buy 5,000 new airplanes by 2030 to meet the demand.

This year Boeing celebrates the 40th anniversary of its partnership with China’s aviation industry. It ranks as the single largest purchaser of Chinese-made aviation parts, committing hundreds of millions of dollars annually to dozens of suppliers. Today, some 6,000 Boeing airplanes fly throughout the world with integrated Chinese-built parts and assemblies.