Air New Zealand has completed a test flight partially using jatropha-based fuel, another experiment on the path to cleaning up the emissions and impact of flying.
The airliner sent a 747 on a two-hour flight Dec. 29 from and to Auckland International Airport. One of its four engines was filled with a 50-50 blend of fuel based on the jatropha plant and conventional jet fuel.
As with biofuels for automobiles, using biofuels to replace jet fuel has the possibility to actually create more greenhouse gas emissions, replace food crops and lead to other negative impacts if not sourced properly.
Air New Zealand set a number of criteria for its jatropha, requiring that the land it came from was neither forest nor virgin grassland in the previous 20 years, that the soil and climate it came from is not suitable for the majority of food crops and that the farms are rain fed and not mechanically irrigated. The company has also set general criteria for seeking sustainable fuels, saying that such biofuels must not compete with food resources, that they must be as good as traditional jet fuels and that they should be competitive costwise with existing fuels.
Next month, Continental Airlines will also take jatropha for a spin with a test flight that will use a mix of jet fuel and fuel based on both jatropha and on algae.
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