As concern for the environment gathers urgency, a number of manufacturers are studying the use of biofuels, which they consider a low-CO2 alternative to petroleum-based fuels.
Continental Airlines today became the first North American airline to demonstrate the use of sustainable biofuel to power a commercial aircraft when one of its Boeing 737-800s took off from George Bush Houston Intercontinental Airport shortly after noon local time fueled in part with algae and jatropha oil.
Pratt & Whitney Canada is leading a four-year, university-industry biofuel research project under a Canada-India science and technology agreement. The program will identify and test a number of “second generation” biofuels that do not compete with food resources, such as jatropha (succulent plants), algae and biobutanol. The program will also compare current jet fuels with first- and second-generation biofuels.
Pratt & Whitney Canada is leading a four-year, university-industry biofuel research project under a Canada-India science and technology agreement. P&WC and its partners will test and compare second-generation biofuels that do not compete with food resources, such as jatropha, algae and biobutanol.
Continental Airlines last month said it would end all pilot furloughs this year to stem excessive pilot-training costs at its Continental Express subsidiary. A “flow-through” agreement negotiated in ConEx’s pilot contract in 1998 allows furloughed mainline pilots to bid for positions at the regional airline.
Honeywell Aerospace, along with Honeywell subsidiary UOP, Airbus, JetBlue and International Aero Engines (IAE), are joining efforts to develop a sustainable biofuel, using feedstocks that do not compete with food or water resources. The five partners will focus on converting bio feedstocks to commercial aviation fuels. Those feedstocks could be algae.
Airbus and Shell recently made the first ever commercial flight using liquid fuel processed from gas when an A380 airliner flew from Filton in the UK to the airframer’s Toulouse, France headquarters. The flight marked the start of a program to evaluate the environmental impact of alternative fuels in the airline market.
Synthetic fuel seems to be the new Holy Grail of air transport. The prospect of oil reserve depletion, the need to curb CO2 emissions and energy security concerns are all encouraging the industry to find a viable alternative to the current jet-A1 kerosene that can be used in current engines.
General Electric’s research arm and the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Project Agency (Darpa) have joined forces to develop an entirely bio-based jet fuel to reduce U.S. dependence on foreign oil. The main challenge is to make the conversion process efficient. The project envisions a conversion efficiency, by energy content, of crop oil to JP-8 surrogate of between 60 and 85 percent.
Green Flight International last month conducted the first flight of a jet using 100-percent biodiesel fuel. The experimental test flight was flown by an L-29, a military aircraft that is rated to fly on a variety of fuels, including heating oil, making it a “preferred platform” for testing biodiesel in jet engines.