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Boeing plans ‘green’ jet biofuel test flight

Air New Zealand, Boeing and Rolls-Royce will use biofuel made from the oil of jatropha plants on a commercial airline demonstration flight in December.

The ‘green’ jet fuel will be mixed 50/50 with Jet A1 kerosene jet fuel and will power one of the Boeing 747-400’s Rolls-Royce engines.

The technology used to convert the jatropha plant oil into jet fuel comes from Honeywell company UOP.

Jatropha is an inedible plant and is considered a sustainable, second-generation resource because its cultivation and harvesting do not tax valuable food, land or water resources, and can provide socioeconomic benefit to the regions where it is grown.

Boeing Commercial Airplane’s MD of environmental strategy Billy Glover, said in the press release:

“The processing technology exists today, and based on results we’ve seen, it’s highly encouraging that this fuel not only met but exceeded three key criteria for the next generation of jet fuel: higher than expected jet fuel yields, very low freeze point and good energy density. That tells us we’re on the right path to certification and commercial availability.”

Others aren’t as convinced about the ‘green’ jet fuel claims, however.

Quoted in an article in The Guardian, Robin Oakley, head of Greenpeace UK’s climate change campaign, argued:

“We need a dose of realism here, because this test flight does not mean an end to the use of kerosene in jet engines. The amount of jatropha that would be needed to power the world’s entire aviation sector cannot be produced in anything like a sustainable way, and even if large volumes could be grown, planes are an incredibly wasteful way of using it.”

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