Japan Airlines (JAL) is going up into the wild blue yonder using (in part) second generation biofuel. They have a demonstration flight scheduled for the end of March 2009 that will feature a blend of jet fuel and cellulosic ethanol to power one of the four engines of a JAL Boeing 747-300 aircraft with Pratt & Whitney JT9D engines. They’re working with both Boeing and Pratt & Whitney on the flight, which will last about an hour, and they expect it will be the first biofuel test flight in
While they know the equipment they’re using, they aren’t yet decided on what biofuel they’re going with, though they’ve narrowed it down to second generation biofuels. JAL likes second generation biofuel because it doesn’t compete with people for natural food or water resources, and by using it, they may minimize (sort of) their environmental footprint. The company’s goal is a 20% cut on CO2 emissions per available tonne kilometers of its fleet, compared to 1990 levels, with a due date of 2010. So far it has achieved nearly 16% of that 20% goal. Going with a biofuel-jet fuel blend can help knock a percentage point or two off of that as well.If they’re really stretching for that goal, why not use the 787 with the biofuel cocktail, I wonder.
Using cellulosic ethanol, especially that from technology that turns municipal waste into useable fuel, is a pretty attractive notion for commercial airline flights. However, if they really want to make a dent in what they’re spending on increasingly expensive fuel and the massive amount of CO2 that commercial airline flights produce, they’ll have to figure out something more than putting a little biofuel into one engine. Talk about just dipping one’s toes in the pool. Perhaps they’re just waiting for the EU to make some headway in the science...
At any rate, Boeing will be conducting the biofuel screening and says it will pick the best performing fuel by the end of August. We'll keep our eyes out for any news updates.
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