Alaska Airlines Launches Biofuel-powered U.S. Service

 - November 9, 2011, 2:40 PM
Horizon Air, sister company of Alaska Airlines, will operate select flights between Seattle and Washington, D.C., and Portland, Ore., over the next few weeks.

Alaska Airlines and sister carrier Horizon Air have purchased sufficient biofuel from SkyNRG, an aviation biofuels broker, to operate a total of 75 passenger flights using biofuel during the month of November.

Beginning today, Alaska Airlines will fly a Boeing 737 between Seattle and Washington, D.C., for a total of 11 trips and Horizon Air will fly a Q400 a total of 64 trips from Seattle to Portland, Ore. The aircraft will be burning a 20-percent blend of sustainable biofuel that “meets rigorous international safety and sustainability standards.” Dynamic Fuels, the producer of the renewable synthetic fuel made from used cooking oil, is a $170 million joint venture between Tyson Foods and Syntroleum.

“Alaska is not the first airline in the world to use aviation biofuel; there are examples in Europe and other places,” Megan Lawrence, managing director of government affairs for Alaska Airlines, told AIN. “However, it’s worth pointing out that the 75 flights, almost one percent of the two airlines’ scheduled flights during the time the flights are being conducted, is a significant and major milestone in American aviation.”
According to Lawrence, SkyNRG technical staff calculated, and Alaska Airlines validated, that the 75 flights will reduce greenhouse gas emissions overall by 10 percent, or 134 metric tons, the carbon equivalent of taking 26 cars off the road for a year. “Imagine if both airlines operated all their aircraft for a year using a 20-percent biofuel blend. The annual emissions savings would represent the equivalent of taking nearly 64,000 cars off the road or providing electricity to 28,000 homes,” she said.

Alaska’s commercial biofuel flights come six months after Alaska Air Group partnered with Boeing, the operators of the region’s three largest airports (Port of Seattle, Port of Portland and Spokane International Airport), and Washington State University’s center for advanced biofuels research, in a strategic initiative called Sustainable Aviation Fuels Northwest. SAFN is a 10-month effort to explore the feasibility, challenges and opportunities for creating an aviation biofuels industry in the U.S. Pacific Northwest.