Will biofuels power tomorrow’s planes?
en route to Amsterdam. This short flight may prove to be a giant leap forward
for the aviation industry.
to fly partly under the power of biofuels.
coconut and babassu oil and 80% of the normal Jet A aviation fuel.
viable options for replacing the liquid fuels derived from petroleum used in transport,
the source of about one quarter of the human race’s greenhouse gas emissions.
in global warming, as more and more people take advantage of cheap tickets on
aircraft powered by kerosene. Environmentalists claim it is a major carbon producer,
fuelling rising world temperatures.
and aircraft engine manufacturers General Electric have been working with Virgin
to cut down their flights’ carbon footprints.
unchanged, using the same engines as any scheduled, passenger-carrying flight.
Only the fuel is different.
another alternative fuel – a synthetic mix of gas-to-liquid – in one of its four
engines. It flew from Filton in the UK to Toulouse in France, a journey of some
900km (560 miles), and was in partnership with Rolls-Royce and Shell.
powered partly by biofuels later this year.
on kerosene. But it is likely to be decades before aircraft are able to take to
the skies powered entirely by something other than fossil fuels.
a low freeze point – meaning it is suited to the very low temperatures encountered
by high-flying aircraft. Biofuels cannot be relied upon to operate as reliably
in the same temperatures.
fuel source for long flights.
than having to replace every engine in their fleets.
and use of biofuel crops could threaten natural ecosystems and raise food prices.
It could also mean the deforestation of rainforests, which absorb massive amounts
of the flight but said it would be a “truly sustainable type of biofuel that doesn’t
compete with food and fresh water resources”.
aviation’s share of the carbon is cutting the amount of flights we take.
a major distraction in the fight against climate change. There is mounting evidence
that the carbon savings from biofuels are negligible.
on the environment it would support calls for aircraft emissions to be included
in the Climate Change Bill.”
is making a huge mistake backing biofuels. It means a huge amount of fuel we’ve
got to produce.”
to try and replace transport’s share of fossil fuel consumption with biofuels
– there is simply not enough arable land to grow fuel crops and food.
in the way we power our planes is unlikely, analysts say, to be just around the
Algae are fuelling Branson’s maiden flight (Sunday Telegraph)
per cent standard aviation fuel and 25 per cent a secret biofuel recipe.
for 3% of global greenhouse gas emissions, and rising.
the industry will manage to halt the exponential growth of its CO2 emissions,
let alone reverse it. And he doesn’t know when biofuels will make a dent in that
believed to be an algae-based fuel. Virgin will announce the details of the fuel,
plus the identity of the company it is buying it from on Sunday.
biofuels like ethanol are not a miracle cure because they compete with food crops.
technology comes from sky-high fuel prices? Crude oil prices have soared to record
levels in the last few years and are not expected to fall back any time soon.
economic reasons for moving over to biofuel.
got costs of $100 a barrel for fuel, that’s pretty important,” he says.
into biofuels. These include babssu, a South African tree, jatorpha, an attractive
flowering plant, and halophytes, a salt-water tolerant plant. But the company
has worked most with algae-based fuels.
to grow enough algae to supply the aviation industry’s needs.
that will make it easy to use across the sector.
because planes won’t have to be modified to use it,” he says.
be a commercial product,” he says, but even then fuel will probably be a composite
– part biofuel, part petrol.
pollution by 50%,” he says.
which is developing its own biofuel that will be commercially tested later this
year, has said the same thing.
otherwise bitter rivals. But that won’t stop Boeing and indeed Virgin revelling
in the public glory of being the first ones to get a biofuel plane off the ground.
airline flight partly powered by renewable energy on Sunday.
A Virgin Atlantic jumbo jet flew from London to Amsterdam with one of its fuel
tanks filled with a bio-jet blend including babassu oil and coconut oil. A Virgin Atlantic statement said the biofuel mix provided 25 percent of the
fuel for the test flight.