A Qatar Airways aircraft has completed the world’s first commercial passenger flight powered by a fuel made from natural gas.
The journey from London Gatwick to Doha, which took place late on 12 October, took more than six hours and was operated with an Airbus A340-600 aircraft using Rolls-Royce Trent 556 engines.
Shell developed and produced the GTL Jet Fuel: a 50-50 blend of synthetic gas-to-liquid (GTL) kerosene and conventional oil-based kerosene fuel. The fuel, an alternative to conventional oil-based kerosene, burns with lower sulphur dioxide and particulate emissions than pure conventional oil-based kerosene, making it attractive for improving local air quality at busy airports.
The flight was the latest step in more than two years of scientific work carried out by a consortium consisting of Airbus, Qatar Airways, Qatar Petroleum, Qatar Science & Technology Park, Rolls-Royce, Shell and Qatar Fuel (WOQOD) into the benefits of using the GTL Jet Fuel to power commercial aircraft. Much of the work is being undertaken at the Qatar Science & Technology Park in Doha. Data from the GTL flight will be used by scientists in Qatar to further quantify the benefits of using the GTL Jet Fuel.
The GTL kerosene will be produced in commercial quantities by the Pearl GTL project, currently under construction by Qatar Petroleum and Shell. The project is expected to produce around one million tonnes per annum of GTL kerosene from 2012, enough to power a typical commercial airliner for half a billion kilometres when used in a 50 per cent blend to make the GTL Jet Fuel.
The GTL Jet Fuel, with GTL kerosene up to 50 per cent, was fully and unconditionally approved as safe for use in civil aviation by ASTM International (originally known as the American Society for Testing and Materials) in September 2009. The approval followed two years of separate research and discussion by the ASTM specification group, a separate consensus body consisting of producers, equipment manufacturers and consumers of aviation fuel.
In an earlier phase of the research work, in February 2008, a test Airbus A380 flew from Filton in the UK to Toulouse in France in the first-ever use of the GTL Jet Fuel to power an airliner.