It might not strictly be Australian, but our trans-Tasman neighbours deserve some credit for this: Boeing, Air New Zealand and Rolls-Royce have announced a partnership to demonstrate the ability of biofuels to be used in passenger aircraft next year.
Exact details are somewhat limited at the moment and are expected to come out closer to the date, but the demonstration flight is scheduled for the second half of 2008 using one of Air New Zealand’s Boeing 747-400 aircraft, outfitted with Rolls-Royce gas turbine engines. One of the engines will be specially modified to take the biofuel, with the other three running on standard jet fuel.
“Bio-jet” fuels, as Boeing is referring to them, are likely to come from second-generation feedstocks such as cellulosic ethanol or algae biodiesel, though the exact fuel to be used has not been specified. The graph above, from Green Car Congress, shows the relative carbon dioxide emissions when compared to the currently used Jet-A fuel, which is derived from crude oil. Bio-jet fuel is expected to emit only 40% of the CO2 emissions of standard jet fuel, though the graph includes only exhaust emissions, and does not include upstream absorptions and emissions.
Air NZ CEO Rob Fyfe said that the test marked a “significant step” in making his airline as environmentally friendly as possible:
“Simply, we are taking the first step on what promises to be a defining and inspiring journey,” he said.
“It’s hard to believe that as little as a year ago, biofuel seemed like pie in the sky and was being written off by many commentators in terms of aviation application.
“But it is now becoming a genuine possibility and the technology is moving so fast that it may become commercially viable in a much shorter time frame than we previously thought.”