NZ airline flies jetliner partly run on veggie oil
flight Tuesday to test a biofuel that could lower airplane emissions and cut costs,
Air New Zealand said.
jatropha plants and standard A1 jet fuel.
were slammed by skyrocketing oil prices earlier in 2008 and are now bracing for
a falloff in air travel in the face of a global economic slowdown.
jet fuel since jatropha is not yet produced on a commercial scale, the company
expects the blend to be “cost competitive,” according to company spokeswoman Tracy
the low temperatures encountered at cruising altitudes. But tests show jatropha,
whose seeds yield an oil already used to produce fuels like biodiesel, has an
even lower freezing point than jet fuel.
airline and commercial aviation.”
important moment in aviation history,” he said shortly after the flight. The company’s
goal is to become the world’s most environmentally sustainable airline.
included a biofuel mixture of palm and coconut oil – but was dismissed as a publicity
stunt by environmentalists who said the fuel could not be produced in the quantities
needed for commercial aviation use.
plant that grows in warm climates – absorbs about half the carbon that jatropha-based
fuels release. Air New Zealand’s proposed blend, for example, would mean a one-quarter
reduction in the carbon footprint of standard jet fuel.
for raising the price of food by diverting it from kitchen tables to engines.
While the link between biofuels and grain prices is debatable, Mills said that
jatophra plants would not compete with food or other commercial crops since it
can grow on land that would make poor farmland and needs little water.
that doesn’t compete for land with food production,” Mills said.
and cruising to 35,000 feet (10,600 meters), where the crew manually set all four
engine controls to check for identical performance readings among the biofuel-powered
engine and those using jet fuel. Pilots also switched off the fuel pump for the
biofuel engine at 25,000 feet (7,600 meters) “to test the lubricity of the fuel,”
ensuring its friction in the pipe did not slow its flow to the engine.
said results from the flight tests will provide the company and its partners with
invaluable data to help jatropha become a certified aviation fuel.
Ed Sims cautioned that it will be at least 2013 before the company can ensure
easy access to the large quantities of jatropha it would need to use the biofuel
on all of its flights.
amounts of the fuel and then be able to move that amount of fuel around the world
to be able to power the world’s airlines is still some years off,” Sims told New
Zealand’s National Radio.
309,000 acres (125,000 hectares).
in part, by biofuels, Mills said. Most of those using the blend would be short
haul domestic services.
maker Rolls Royce and biofuel specialist, UOP Llc, a unit of Honeywell International.
Air New Zealand A320 Airbus crashed off Perpignan on the south coast of France on Nov. 27, killing all seven on board.
grow, thus making it possible for the aviation industry to achieve carbon neutrality
in the future. All three flights will mark the first time a particular type of
biofuel has been used, sourced from jatropha, algae and camelina.
arid areas unsuitable for food crops.
The second flight takes place on 7 January when a CFM engine on a
deserts and other inhospitable places. Algae is an excellent carbon sequestrator,
soaking up carbon dioxide. An area of unused land or water the size of Belgium
could provide enough fuel to power the entire fleet according to Boeing.
The flight on 30 January will see Japan Airlines use
a high-energy crop that can be grown in dry areas, poor soil and high altitudes.