Boeing, ANA Conduct First Transpacific Biofuel Flight

 - April 17, 2012, 11:54 AM
Boeing personnel pump a 15-percent biofuel blend into the 787 that flew from Everett, Washington, to Tokyo on Tuesday. (Photo: Boeing)

Boeing and Japan’s ANA conducted the first-ever transpacific flight powered with biofuel on Tuesday using the airline’s newest Boeing 787 Dreamliner. Ferried between Paine Field in Everett, Wash., and Tokyo Haneda Airport for a regularly scheduled delivery, the airplane flew the nine-hour, 4,340-nm mission with a 15-percent biofuel blend made mainly from used cooking oil. Burning biofuel in both of its Rolls-Royce Trent 1000 turbofans, the 787 produced some 30 percent less CO2 than a modern airplane of similar size would typically have emitted, said Boeing.

Of the reduction in greenhouse gases, Boeing attributes about 10 percent to the use of biofuel and 20 percent to the technology and efficiency advances inherent in the Dreamliner. 

“Our historic flight using sustainable biofuels across the Pacific Ocean highlights how innovative technology can be used to support our industry’s goal of carbon-neutral growth beyond 2020,” said Osamu Shinobe, ANA senior executive vice president.

Boeing considers itself a leader in the global effort to develop sustainable aviation biofuels as part of the industry’s strategy for lowering its carbon emissions. In fact, Boeing, Airbus and Embraer signed a memorandum of understanding March 22 at the Aviation and Environment Summit in Geneva to jointly promote the commercialization of “drop-in” biofuels—alternative fuels that make use of the existing petroleum infrastructure.

Airlines face cost pressure both to reduce fuel consumption and lower emissions. The International Air Transport Association said March 20 that it is downgrading its 2012 industry profitability outlook by $500 million from its December forecast, primarily due to rising oil prices. It now expects the price of oil to average $115 per barrel, up from the previously forecast $99, boosting fuel to 34 percent of average airline operating costs. The FAA, citing an IHS Global Insight projection, last month forecast the price at $100 per barrel this year, an increase of 6 percent from last year. The agency said it expects the price to rise to $115 by 2020 and to $138 by 2032.