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Project 17 | Alternative Fuels

Alternative Fuels

Project Category: Alternative Fuels
Project Number: 17

As the first of several projects within PARTNER that consider alternative jet fuels, Project 17 examined the feasibility of near-term fuel options that could be used within the existing fleet of aircraft. Alternative fuel options were compared to the current standard, Jet A derived from conventional petroleum. Options examined include an ultra low sulfur jet fuel from conventional petroleum, conventional jet fuel derived from both oil sands and oil shale, synthetic paraffinic kerosene, biodiesel, biokerosene, and alcohols. SPK fuel options include those derived from Fischer-Tropsch synthesis of natural gas, coal, and biomass as well as hydroprocessed renewable jet fuels from palm and soybeans. The examination of ultra low sulfur jet fuel led to PARTNER Project 27 while PARTNER Project 28 is devoted to further examining alternative jet fuel options.

Project 17 examined whether there are alternative fuels for commercial aviation that could reduce the environmental impact of aviation while reducing price and price volatility of jet fuel. The examination used a consistent set of metrics that focused on feasibility, production potential, and environmental impact. Considerable efforts were devoted to examining the effect of fuel composition on aircraft operability and on estimating the life cycle greenhouse gas emissions that result from both fuel production and fuel use. An examination of such “well-to-wake” emissions is critical to knowing the full impact of fuel production on global climate change.

The PARTNER Project 28 Web page contains much additional information on PARTNER’s research into the environmental feasibility of alternative jet fuels.

The Project 17 study was conducted by MIT researchers from the Aeronautics and Astronautics Department, and the MIT Laboratory for Energy and the Environment, in collaboration with researchers from the RAND Corporation. A joint report summarizing the findings of the research is forthcoming.


Report detailing opportunities and challenges of various alternative fuels for aviation.


Massachusetts Institute of Technology


Ian Waitz, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, iaw@mit.edu
James Hileman, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, hileman@mit.edu


Nathan Brown, nathan.brown@faa.gov
Warren Gillette, warren.gillette@faa.gov


• Comparison of Air-Quality-Related Mortality Impacts of Different Transportation Modes in the United States. Zia Wadud, Ian Waitz. Presented at the Transportation Research Board 90th Annual Meeting, Washington, DC, January 2011.

• Near-Term Feasibility of Alternative Jet Fuels. James I. Hileman, David S. Ortiz, James T. Bartis, Hsin Min Wong, Pearl E. Donohoo, Malcolm A. Weiss, Ian A. Waitz. Final report of PARTNER Project 17. Report No. PARTNER-COE-2009-001 Download (pdf 1.5M)

• The Potential for Alternative Fuels for Aviation. Presented at the ICAO Committee on Aviation Environmental Protection 7th Meeting, 5-16 February 2007, Montréal, Canada. Download (pdf 152K)

Hileman, J.I., Wong, H.M., Ortiz, D., Brown, N., Maurice, L., Rumizen, M., The Feasibility and Potential Environmental Benefits of Alternative Fuels for Commercial Aviation, Proceedings of the 26th Congress of the Aeronautical Sciences, Anchorage Alaska, September, 2008. Download (pdf 622K)