Algae, Jatropha Tapped To Power Continental Airlines' First Biofuel Test Flight


photo: Quack1k
Continental Airlines joins a growing list of travel carriers investigating biofuel-powered flights. The Houston-based company has announced that it will be conducting its first biofuel demonstration flight in the United States on January 7, 2009, in Houston.

Continental says that it will be using "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". (True enough for algae, less so for jatropha.) More details from Continental:No Passengers Aboard Boeing 737-800

The demonstration flight will be the first biofuel flight by a commercial carrier using algae as a fuel source and the first using a two-engine aircraft, a Boeing 737-800 equipped with CFM International CFM56-7B engines.

The fuel used in one of the two CFM engines during the demonstration flight will be a blend of 50 percent traditional jet fuel, and 50 percent biofuel from algae and jatropha.

Operating under a specially-issued "Experimental" aircraft type certificate, the aircraft will be crewed by Continental's own FAA-licensed test pilots. With no passengers on board, the flight test plan calls for operating the No. 2 (right) engine on the special biofuel blend, including power accelerations / decelerations, in-flight engine shut-down and restart and other flight maneuvers that include both normal and non-normal procedures. Numerous flight parameters will be recorded, and a post-flight engine analysis will contribute to findings which are expected to show that the biofuel blend is readily substitutable for regular fuel without any degradation of performance or safety, and with a net reduction in carbon emissions.

The biofuel will the supplied by Sapphire Energy (algae) and Terrasol (jatropha). Continental's other partners in the flight are Boeing, CFM International, and UOP.

More at: Continental (press release)

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Tags: Airlines | Biofuels | Renewable Energy

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