Image from Airplane-Pictures.net
Date Set for Jatropha-Powered Test Flight
The announcement that Air New Zealand had set an ambitious sustainable biofuels goal for 2013 created a lot of buzz back in September. But all too often such announcements amount to nothing. This time, however, the early signs are looking positive that this initiative may actually yield results. We've just heard via Green Car Congress that Air New Zealand, in conjunction with Boeing and UOP, have just set a date for their first test-flight running on 50% biofuel produced from non-food sources. There's more:
The biofuel in question will be blended 50/50 with regular jet fuel, and will be produced from Jatropha, an inedible plant that can be grown on soils where food plants cannot thrive (you can read more on TreeHugger about jatropha biofuels). According to the UOP press release about the biofuel, the technology is also adaptable to algae feedstocks. Air New Zealand Chief Executive Officer Rob Fyfe had this to say about the initiative and how it fits into the airline's wider sustainability goals:
"This flight strongly supports our efforts to be the world's most environmentally responsible airline. We recently demonstrated the fuel and environmental gains that can be achieved through advanced operational procedures using Boeing 777s. We're also modernizing our fleet as we await our Trent 1000-powered 787-9 Dreamliners that will burn 20 percent less fuel than the planes they replace. Introducing a new generation of sustainable fuels is the next logical step in our efforts to further save fuel and reduce aircraft emissions."
Undoubtedly these are early days, and many challenges remain in creating truly sustainable biofuels, and certainly in creating truly sustainable aviation — but unlike land and sea transportation, airlines have very few if any alternatives to liquid fuels, so initiatives like this are an encouraging sign that aviation may be able to weather the inevitable transition to a post fossil-fuel economy.
More on TreeHugger about Aviation and Biofuels
Virgin Experimenting with Biofuel for Jets
Biodiesel for Aircraft Q&A;
Air New Zealand Biofuelling Through the High Skies
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