An historical moment on December 30, 2008: Air New Zealand makes history via jatropha powered flight while General Motors plans to sign a pact for jatropha production.
The flight was the first to use jatropha as part of a biofuel mix.
HONG KONG: Despite plunging oil prices, airlines are intensifying their search for alternative fuels to make flying more affordable and environmentally friendly.
An early test of the commercial and technical viability of one such biofuel took place Tuesday in the skies above Auckland. Air New Zealand, the country’s primary carrier, staged a successful test flight using oil derived from jatropha, a weed which can grow in arid conditions and produces inedible oil. This means it won’t be taking away crops used for feeding the world’s swelling population, like ethanol production.
For two hours pilots tested the oil, a 50-50 blend of conventional jet fuel and jatropha, in one of the four Rolls-Royce engines which powered the Boeing 747-400 aircraft. This flight holds the distinction as being the first test flight of a commercial airline utilizing jatropha oil.
“Today we stand at the earliest stages of sustainable fuel development and an important moment in aviation history,” said Rob Fyfe, Air New Zealand’s chief executive. The project has been 18 months in the works. Hopes are that the test results will lay the groundwork for jatropha to be available in commercially viable quantities as soon as three to five years, executives of the companies said.
More Biodiesel Test Flights to Come in 2009
Other airlines are conducting test flights using biofuel blended jet fuels in 2009:
- Continental Airlines has a scheduled January 7, 2009 test flight using a blend of Jatropha and algae. This will be the first flight that algae has been used in a biofuel blend for a commerical aircraft. Continental to be first carrier in the Americas to conduct biofuel flight in partnership with Boeing, GE Aviation, CFM International, and Honeywell’s UOP
HOUSTON, Dec. 8 — Continental Airlines (NYSE: CAL) today announced plans for the first biofuel-powered demonstration flight of a U.S. commercial airliner, to be conducted in Houston on Jan. 7, 2009. The demonstration flight, which will be operated with no passengers, will be powered by a special fuel blend including components derived from algae and jatropha plants — sustainable, second-generation fuel sources that don’t impact food crops or water resources, and don’t contribute to deforestation. (Source: Continental Airlines)
- Japan Airlines has a scheduled January 30, 2009, test flight using a biodiesel fuel based on camelina oilseed.
BOZEMAN, Mont., Dec 16, 2008 (BUSINESS WIRE) — Sustainable Oils, a producer and marketer of renewable, environmentally clean, and high-value camelina-based biofuels will participate in an historic flight by Japan Airlines (JAL) planned for January 30, 2009. The demonstration flight will make JAL the first Asian carrier to fly on fuel derived from sustainable feedstocks and the first airline to use camelina-based bio-jet fuel. JAL’s feedstock mixture is 84% camelina, nearly 16% jatropha and just under 1% algae. Both jatropha and algae are being tested as primary biofuels for aviation gas as well. (Source: BiofuelsDigest.com)
Flash Back to February 2008: Virgin Atlantic became the first airline to test a commercial aircraft on a biofuel blend, using a 20 percent mixture of coconut oil and babassu oils in one of its four engines. Note: Coconut and babassu oils come from palm trees and are used to make soaps, shampoos and special skin lotions. I would hope that Virgina Airlines considered a jatropha-blend instead of palm products. If large amounts of these oils were used for biodiesel, shampoo and other similar products would increase in price. Additionally, palm oil is already one of the many reasons for excessive de-forestation in South America. Increasing the strain on these forests for the output of additional fuel would be disasterous.
General Motors to Sign MoU (Memorandum of Understanding) for Growing Jatropha.
Ahmedabad: After the successful first phase trial run of biodiesel blended fuel, auto-maker General Motors is likely to sign an agreement with Bhavnagar based Central Salt and Marine Chemical Research Institute (CSMCRI) for Jatropa cultivation, institute officials said.
As part of the General Motors Initivative to use biodiesel blended fuels for its vehicles, GM has signed an MoU for the cultivation of jatropha in wastelands. The corporation has conducted test trials running a biodiesel blend in excess of 25,000 kilometers. The blended fuel contained between 10-20% Jatropha biodiesel and future trials have plans of upping the percentage to 100% Jatropha biodiesel.