Aviation Biofuel Goes Trans-Atlantic

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Boeing 747-8 freighter jet
Biofuel helped get the Boeing 747-8 freighter across the Atlantic, saving costs and reducing CO2 emissions.

Imagine tens of thousands of aircraft crisscrossing the globe every day, each burning hundreds and even thousands of gallons of petroleum-based fuel. Facing rising fuel costs and increasingly stringent government regulations, operators are scrambling to find cheaper alternatives with a reduced environmental impact. Two recent trans-Atlantic flights illustrate the role of biofuel in meeting these goals.

On June 18, a Honeywell-operated Gulfstream G450 made a seven-hour flight from Morristown, New Jersey in the U.S. to Paris, France, flying on a 50/50 blend of Honeywell Green Jet Fuel and standard petroleum-based jet fuel powering one of it’s two Rolls-Royce engines.

Honeywell’s biofuel is derived from camelina, a hardy crop that can be used as animal feed and that also has value in human nutrition. But since it grows in rotation with wheat and survives well on marginal land, camelina is gaining in popularity as a biofuel crop.

Honeywell’s camelina-based Green Jet Fuel meets all specifications for flight without any modifications to the aircraft or engine, while reducing carbon dioxide emissions. For this flight, the use of Honeywell Green Jet Fuel saved an estimated 5.5 metric tons of net carbon dioxide emissions compared to the same flight powered by petroleum-based fuel alone.

Two days later, Boeing landed its new 747-8 Freighter in Paris after a trans-Atlantic flight from Everett, Washington. That flight also used a camelina-based biofuel, in this case a blend of 15 percent biofuel with 85 percent standard kerosene Jet A fuel. All four of its General Electric GEnx-2B engines ran on the mixture, with no modifications made to the engines, the plane, or its operating procedures.

Boeing is putting forth great effort to reduce the environmental impact of commercial aviation. Jim Albaugh, Boeing Commercial Airplanes President and CEO, explained, “Boeing is taking aggressive action to reduce global warming. It’s good for our customers and for passengers, and it’s the right thing to do. We’re committed to make each generation of airplane more efficient by improving aerodynamics, using lighter materials like composites and better engines and making aviation biofuels a priority.”

Fuel costs represent the largest single operating cost for airlines, and an enormous source of greenhouse gas emissions. That being the case, increased use of non-food crop biofuels should go a long way to making aviation more affordable and gentler on the environment.

Read Biofuels and Bioenergy: Processes and Technologies from Amazon.

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