Jet biofuel test gives big savings

'Remarkable' result reported from using blend containing jatropha-seed oil Biofuel testing in an Air New Zealand jet showed up to 1.4 tonnes of fuel can be saved on a 12-hour flight - a "remarkable" result, Air New Zealand said yesterday.

During the December test flight, a Boeing 747-400 Rolls-Royce RB211 engine was powered by a 50:50 blend of sustainable biofuel (jatropha) and traditional Jet A1 fuel. Jatropha plants produce seeds that contain inedible lipid oil, which is used to produce fuel.

Air NZ's general manager of airline operations, Captain David Morgan, said the findings were significant for the aviation industry, which was in the earliest stages of sustainable fuel development.

"Certainly the data from our biofuel test flight will be a critical component towards helping biofuel become a certified aviation fuel," he said.

More than a dozen performance tests were made during the two-hour test flight over the wider Hauraki Gulf area The tests were completed at various altitudes, under a variety of conditions.

A report on the test said the biofuel demonstrated its potential for use at a ratio of up to 50:50 with Jet A1 fuel.

The fuel burn for a Boeing 747-400 12-hour flight would improve by 1.2 per cent and save 1.43 tonnes of fuel, with a reduction in carbon emissions of about 4.5 tonnes of CO2.

There would be an estimated 60 to 65 per cent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.

The report would now be submitted to industry evaluation and approval protocol before it could be certified for everyday use.

Captain Morgan said Air New Zealand aimed to become the world's most environmentally sustainable airline and was proud to have played a role in the biofuel test.

"We remain committed to our ambition of having 10 per cent of our fuel needs by 2013 met by alternative fuels, but appreciate there are many more steps to be taken by experts in other areas to deliver biofuel as a commercial aviation fuel source."

- NZPA

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