Biofuel flight

Japan Airlines has become the first airline to conduct a demonstration flight using a sustainable biofuel primarily refined from the energy crop camelina.


Japan Airlines (JAL) has become the first airline to conduct a demonstration flight using a sustainable biofuel primarily refined from the energy crop camelina.


It was also the first demo flight using a combination of three sustainable biofuel feedstocks, as well as the first one using Pratt & Whitney engines.


The approximately 1.5hr demo flight using a JAL-owned Boeing 747-300 aircraft, carrying no passengers or payload, took off from Haneda Airport, Tokyo.


A blend of 50 per cent biofuel and 50 per cent traditional Jet-A (kerosene) fuel was tested in one of the aircraft’s four Pratt & Whitney JT9D engines.


No modifications to the aircraft or engine were required for the biofuel, which is a drop-in replacement for petroleum-based fuel.


Captain Keiji Kobayashi, who piloted the aircraft, said that there was no difference at all in the performance of the engine powered by the biofuel blend, and the other three engines containing regular jet fuel.


Data recorded on the aircraft will now be analysed to determine if equivalent engine performance was seen from the biofuel blend compared to typical Jet-A fuel. The initial analysis of the data will take several weeks and will be conducted by team members from Boeing, Japan Airlines and Pratt & Whitney.


The biofuel component tested was a mixture of three biofuel feedstocks: camelina (84 per cent), jatropha (under 16 per cent), and algae (under one per cent).


Sustainable Oils, a US-based provider of camelina-based fuels, sourced the camelina used in the JAL demonstration flight. Terasol Energy sourced and provided the jatropha oil, and the algae oil was provided by Sapphire Energy. Nikki Universal, a joint venture of UOP and JGC, supplied the biofuel used in the flight, which had been produced in the US by UOP.