Airlines begin powering flights with biofuels

Using biofuels has not been ‘exactly historic,’ withattempts having been made almost three years ago. A file pictureof Virgin Group head Richard Branson at London’s Heathrowairport before the first Virgin Atlantic test flight usingalternative fuel made from coconut oil.   | Photo Credit: BEN STANSALL

U.S. airlines were racing this week to demonstrate their clean energy credentials, scheduling a number of flights powered partially by biofuels.

First United Continental announced the departure on Monday morning of Flight 1403 from Houston for Chicago — or the ‘Eco Skies test flight' as the airline called it — using a mix of 60 per cent conventional jet fuel and 40 per cent algae-based fuels.

Alaska Airlines then announced it would operate 75 flights using a mix of 80 per cent conventional jet fuels and 20 per cent biofuels starting on Wednesday. Instead of algae-base, the airline is using used cooking oil or fast-food restaurant throwaways, said Robert Ames, vice-president of Dynamic Fuels, which produced the fuel. “We can use vegetable oil. We can use used cooking oil,” he said.

The flights will include 11 between Seattle and Washington DC, and 64 between Seattle and Portland, Oregon, the airline said.

“We wanted to demonstrate the use of sustainable biofuels both on a transcontinental route and on a short haul that competes with ground vehicle traffic,” Bobbie Egan, a spokeswoman for Alaska, said in an interview.

More expensive

The cooking oil substitute cost six times as much as conventional jet fuel, said Egan. That makes a permanent switch prohibitively expensive — unless production increases and prices come down.

Dynamic Fuels, a joint-venture between Tyson Foods Inc, the world leader in chicken, beef and pork production, and Syntroleum Corporation, is the only producer of this type of fuel in the U.S. The plant has been operating just over a year, and has an annual capacity of 75m gallons.

Monday's flights were not exactly historic. Virgin Atlantic first began trying out biofuels three years ago, and the Dutch KLM tested a 50/50 blend of conventional fuel and used cooking oil on its Paris-Amsterdam route last June. ( Suzanne Goldenberg is the U.S. Environment Correspondent.) — © Guardian Newspapers Limited, 2011

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Printable version | Oct 28, 2020 6:00:19 AM |

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