Biofuel used in flight test may slash emissions by up to 65%

A 50-50 mix of biofuel and traditional jet fuel in a flight test may reduce greenhouse emissions by up to 65 percent compared with a jet which only uses traditional jet fuel, Air New Zealand said.

A flight test found that up to 1.4 tonnes of fuel can be saved when mixing jet fuel with a biofuel obtained with the jatropha plant, the airline said.

Air New Zealand tested a Boeing 747-400 during a twelve hour flight powered with a mix of 50 percent jet fuel and 50 percent biofuel. The aircraft fuel burn improved by 1.2 percent saving 1.43 tons of fuel, according to results from the test unveiled yesterday.

The fuel savings translate into a reduction of approximately 4.5 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions.

At shorter ranges, fuel burn will improve by 1 percent, the company said. Overall savings due to these bio jet fuels is estimated to be a 60-65 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions relative to petroleum-derived jet fuel.

Certainly the data from our biofuel test flight will be a critical component towards helping biofuel become a certified aviation fuel, Air New Zealand General Manager Airline Operations David Morgan said in a statement.

The results from this evaluation flight program will be delivered to several industry bodies to evaluate this and similar fuel products to achieve approval for them as alternatives to existing jet fuel, Air New Zealand obtained.

Experts in the industry say it could take a couple of years before biofuels become a source for commercial aviation.