Australian flag carrier Qantas embarked on its first flight powered by a 50/50 blend of conventional jet fuel and refined cooking oil on April 13. This flight jumpstarts a government-backed initiative in which Qantas will study the conditions necessary to produce sustainable aviation biofuels from sources within Australia, Qantas CEO Alan Joyce said. The study commences in May.
“Today is a historic occasion in Australian aviation,” Joyce said after the first biofuel flight departed from Sydney. It arrived in Adelaide, Australia, nearly two hours later, before returning to Sydney.
Qantas announced that it will operate a flight powered by the same biofuel blend on subsidiary airline Jetstar on April 19. The flight, which will operate by a Melbourne-Hobart, Australia, routing, “underlines the Qantas Group’s commitment to sustainable aviation fuel,” according to a press release.
Fortunately, Joyce said he believes Australia contains the resources and infrastructure necessary to become a key producer of biofuels, an endeavor the Australian Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation estimates could create up to 12,000 jobs over the next two decades. “But there are also significant challenges, which is why we need to establish a clear plan,” Joyce stated.
“Until sustainable aviation fuel is produced commercially at a price competitive with conventional jet fuel, we will not be able to realize its true benefits,” Joyce continued. “This study aims to tell us how that can be achieved in Australia.”
This study comes on the heels of KLM Royal Dutch Airlines’ resumption of a series of biofuel flights between Schiphol Airport and Paris-Charles de Gaulle Airport. The carrier, which launched the initiative in September under the endorsement of the World Wide Fund for Nature, seeks to perform 200 flights powered by a used-cooking-oil blend.
Virgin Atlantic Cargo is also looking to reduce its dependence on jet fuel and is collaborating with LanzaTech to develop a biofuel with half of the carbon emissions of standard fuels. Once complete, the biofuel will be utilized on Virgin Atlantic’s routes from Shanghai and Delhi to London Heathrow Airport, a spokesman for the carrier said in October.
That all these carriers are seemingly working on their own to pursue alternative sources of fuel isn’t a big deal, according to LAN Airlines’ Enrique Guzmán. He spoke with Air Cargo World about his carrier’s experiments with biofuels and explained that there are many different solutions to the same problem and there is no need for a consensus on what feedstock to use in alternative fuels.
“The most important consensus or criteria that the aviation industry already achieved is that biofuels work for aircraft. We have now countless examples that these alternative energies meet the strict technical standards required to fly, with the same characteristics as the regular fuel used on flights,” he said. “Also, we think we have already achieved another very important consensus, which is that in order to have a sustainable biofuel operation in the future, we have to look at second-generation biofuels, that come primarily from sustainable raw materials, which in production do not compete with food sources or basic resources.”