The world's first commercial aviation test flight powered by a sustainable second-generation biofuel will take place on 3 December 2008.
The jatropha based fuel for the Air New Zealand Boeing 747-400 test flight out of Auckland, New Zealand, has been certified as suitable for use by Rolls-Royce.
Chris Lewis, Company Specialist - Fuels, at Rolls-Royce said the fuel is a 50:50 blend of standard Jet A1 fuel and synthetic paraffinic kerosene derived from jatropha oil.
"Laboratory testing showed the final blend has excellent properties meeting, and in many cases exceeding, the stringent technical requirements for fuels used in civil and defence aircraft. The blended fuel therefore meets the essential requirement of being a "drop-in" fuel, meaning its properties will be virtually indistinguishable from conventional Jet A1 fuel, which is used in commercial aviation today."
Air New Zealand's Chief Pilot and General Manager Airline Operations, Captain David Morgan, today announced the date and time of the flight.
"The two-hour test flight is scheduled to take off around 0900 on 3 December with the jatropha blend fuel to power one of our Air New Zealand Boeing 747-400's Rolls-Royce RB211 engines.
"Various procedures will be carried out during the test flight to confirm and measure the performance of the engine being operated with this fuel."
The test flight is a joint initiative between Air New Zealand, Boeing, Rolls-Royce and UOP, a Honeywell company, as part of commercial aviation's drive for more sustainable air travel for future generations.
The jatropha oil Air New Zealand has sourced and refined for its test flight comes from South Eastern Africa (Malawi, Mozambique and Tanzania) and India. It was sourced from seeds grown on environmentally sustainable farms.
Jatropha is a plant that grows to approximately three metres high and produces seeds that contain inedible lipid oil that is used to produce fuel. Each seed produces between 30 and 40 percent of its mass in oil and jatropha can be grown in a range of difficult conditions, including arid and otherwise non-arable areas, leaving prime areas available for food crops.
The partners have been non-negotiable about the three criteria any environmentally sustainable fuel must meet for the test flight programme. These are social, technical and commercial.
Firstly, the fuel source must be environmentally sustainable and not compete with existing food resources. Secondly, the fuel must be a drop-in replacement for traditional jet fuel and technically be at least as good as the product used today. Finally, it should be cost competitive with existing fuel supplies and be readily available.
The criteria for sourcing the jatropha oil required that the land was neither forest land nor virgin grassland within the previous two decades. The quality of the soil and climate is such that the land is not suitable for the vast majority of food crops. Furthermore, the farms are rain-fed and not mechanically irrigated.
The test flight partners engaged Terasol Energy, a leader in sustainable jatropha development projects, to independently source and certify that the jatropha-based fuel for the flight met all sustainability criteria.
Once received from Terasol Energy, the jatropha oil was refined through a collaborative effort between Air New Zealand, Boeing and leading refining technology developer UOP, utilising UOP technology to produce jet fuel from renewable sources that can serve as a direct replacement to traditional petroleum-based fuel.
Issued by Air New Zealand Public Affairs, phone 09 336 2761
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