Air New Zealand’s Biofuel Flight Cuts Emissions By 65%

Air New Zealand’s Biofuel Flight Cuts Emissions By 65%

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At the Eco-Aviation Conference in Washington, Air New Zealand’s Chief Pilot Captain David Morgan announced the company’s findings on a test flight from last December. Powered by a combination of biofuel and jet fuel, the test resulted in a fuel savings of 1.2%. It also cut CO2 emissions by over 60%!

While a 1.2% fuel savings doesn’t seem like much, that is over 1 ton of fuel!

The test was conducted using a commercial 747-400 fitted with Rolls Royce engines. Rolls Royce had certified the fuel — a 50:50 blend of standard Jet A1 fuel and synthetic paraffinic kerosene derived from jatropha oil.

“We’ve proven the technical capability of biofuel as a drop-in replacement,” said Bill Glover, Managing Director of Environmental Strategy for Boeing. “It meets all jet fuel requirements and then some.”

The biofuel was produced from Jatropha seeds grown on “environmentally sustainable farms.” A second generation biofuel, jatropha is grown on land that doesn’t compete with food. It requires almost no care and very little water. Another major benefit of jatropha is that, due to its ability to take hold in harsh wastelands, it can be used to help stop erosion in these areas and reclaim them for agricultural production.

The test was a joint initiative between Air New Zealand, Boeing, Rolls-Royce and Honeywell’s UOP. And it has demonstrated that more sustainable air travel can be achieved by refiners, airframe manufacturers, engine makers and airlines working together.

“Certainly the data from our biofuel test flight will be a critical component towards helping biofuel become a certified aviation fuel,” Captain David Morgan said.

The biofuel offers some performance improvements over Jet A1 due to its higher net heat of combustion including:

  • The fuel burn for a twelve-hour flight would save 1.43 tons of fuel.
  • A savings of approximately 4.5 tons of CO2.
  • An estimated 60-65% reduction in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

The report was prepared by Air New Zealand, Boeing and Rolls-Royce. This material now needs to be submitted to the rigorous industry evaluation and approval protocol to enable it to be certified for everyday use.

“We currently have a team looking at several different biofuel options. We remain committed to our ambition of having 10% of our fuel needs by 2013 met by alternative fuels, but appreciate there are many more steps to be taken by experts in other areas to deliver biofuel as a commercial aviation fuel source,” he says.

But price is another factor for using such fuels.

“At the moment these feed stocks … are still facing the challenge of reaching cost competitiveness with conventional jet fuel,” particularly when the price of oil is around $60 a barrel, Andrew Herdman, director general of the Asia Pacific Airlines Association, told The Associated Press.

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