Qantas will use an industrial type mustard seed to power its new Dreamliner between Melbourne and Los Angeles.

The airline is working to use Brassica Carinata (carinata), a non-food, mustard seed which Qantas says produces high quality oil, ideal for aviation biofuel, bio-jet for aircraft and bio-diesel for airport vehicles.

The Los Angeles to Melbourne flight using a blend of biofuel and traditional jet fuel will run early next year.

Qantas has a partnership with Agrisoma Biosciences (Agrisoma), the Canadian-based agricultural-technology company which developed the carinata


The two companies will work with Australian farmers to grow the country's first commercial aviation biofuel seed crop by 2020.

Qantas International chief executive, Alison Webster said the historic flight and the partnership mark the first step in developing an aviation biofuel supply in Australia.

"We are constantly looking for ways to reduce carbon emissions across our operations but when it comes to using renewable jet fuel, until now, there has not been a locally grown option at the scale we need to power our fleet," Webster said.

The longer-term strategic goal of the partnership was to grow 400,000ha of carinata which would yield more than 200 million litres of bio-jet fuel each year.

Webster said this would support the development of a renewable jetfuel supply and bio-refinery in Australia to power the airline's fleet and further reduce carbon emissions across the airline's operations.

Brassica Carinata (carinata) industrial type mustard seed for biofuel. Photo / Supplied
Brassica Carinata (carinata) industrial type mustard seed for biofuel. Photo / Supplied

The airline said carinita is a 'drop-in' crop and requires no specialised production or processing techniques. It was water efficient and The University of Queensland field trials in Gatton, Queensland, and in Bordertown, South Australia, have demonstrated it should do very well in the Australian climate.

It is sown in either fallow areas where food crops fail or in between regular crop cycles, known as "cover cropping". Rotational or break-crops improves soil quality, reduces erosion for food crops and provides farmers with additional annual income.

Agrisoma chief executive Steve Fabijanski said carinata-based fuel offered a significant reduction in carbon emissions.

"Our commercial operations in the USA, South American and Europe are certified as producing fuels with more than 80 per cent reduction in carbon emissions in comparison to standard petroleum based fuel," Fabijanski said.


"Importantly for farmers, the crushed seed also produces a high-quality, high-protein, non-GMO meal for the Australian livestock, dairy and poultry market."

University of Queensland's Anthony van Herwaarden leads the seed crop trials with Agrisoma in Australia.

"The 2017 trials in Queensland and South Australia demonstrated that carinata can be grown successfully in Australia. Expanding the trials in 2018 will begin the scale-up process to commercial production in the years ahead," van Herwaarden said.

The announcement follows Virgin Australia's decision to lead a biofuel project in Brisbane.

So far biofuel has been more expensive than that from refined oil but if produced at scale prices are likely to drop.