March 3, 2008
With some noise Virgin Air and Boeing announced that they were doing a commercial flight on biofuel. Well it was only a short-haul, London-Amsterdam and it was only one of four tanks that had the new fuel and it was only 20% of the blend in that one tank that came from bio. But we could assume that the passengers preferred safety to pioneering.
The Boeing competitor Airbus has announced already early February that they were flying on “biofuel” but they served themselves well with the quotation marks. The Airbus flight was from Fulton (UK) to Toulouse and had a fuel-blend 60-40, but the 40% where not real biofuel but a forerunner in the form of synthetic fuel (gas to liquid).
So all things taken into account Boeing seems to have been first and probably want to remain in the front. They have also announced together with Air New Zealand similar experiments. The bio-alternative is indeed attractive since it would result in less than half of the carbon-emissions
Even if the biofuel for this flight was derived from Brazilian Babassu-nuts the bigger hope for feedstock to airtransport is use of algae, which has a much higher yield from area according to a study from Boeing. The most enthusiastic says that jet-fuel from algae, grown in ponds, could replace traditional fuel completely! Some sobering warnings concern the impact such algae-farms would have on availability and use of fresh water. But both opinions are up in the air!
Author : Hans Nilsson