Important Milestones in Green Aviation: Biofuels and Carbon Offsetting

Ever since the first engine roared to life, engineers have been working to make them more powerful and more efficient, which has led to the realities of today’s transportation. Another reality is global warming, which has started the push towards more fuel efficiency. Where fuel efficiency falls short though, alternative fuels may provide the answer to a cleaner future, free of carbon dioxide [CO2]. All engines, whether in planes, trains, or automobiles, run on basically the same theory, fuel plus air plus ignition equals power. While alternative fuels have been explored in ground vehicles, what about those in the sky?

Green Jet Fuel

A couple of jet companies have been exploring alternative fuels for use in commercial and passenger aircraft, as well as exploring other ways to reduce their carbon-footprint. As a matter of fact, at the annual National Business Aviation Association [NBAA] convention in Orlando, in the last week of October, 2012, five Gulfstream jets made the flight on a 50/50 mix of regular jet fuel and Honeywell Green Jet Fuel, which is synthesized from the camelina plant. The new fuel doesn’t require any engine modifications, which means that it can work in any jet engine. Additionally, the life-cycle CO2 emissions of burning the 50/50 blend is nearly 70% less than using pure jet fuel.

“Honeywell Green Jet Fuel has been proven repeatedly throughout the aviation community as an alternative fuel source that not only meets strict flight specifications, but also offers significant emissions reductions,” said Jim Rekoske, vice president and general manager of Honeywell’s UOP Renewable Energy and Chemicals business unit. “We are pleased that Gulfstream chose to incorporate Honeywell Green Jet Fuel into its companywide sustainability initiative.”

Lufthansa and Neste have partnering for the last few months using a 50% biofuel/kerosene blend on a single A320 flight between Frankfurt and Hamburg. During the test period, no engine or performance problems have been noted, and no additional exhaust deposits have been found, yet another case for the utilization of biofuels in current aircraft and engine designs.

In early November 2012, the Research Council of Canada reached an enormous milestone:  they undertook the first 100% biofuel-powered civilian flight.  The aircraft was Dassault Falcon business jet, and it was powered by ReadiJet, a synthesized from industrial oilseed crops.

Alternative Energy for Airport Facilities

Next year at the Beurs-World Trade Center, Rotterdam, Netherlands, the World Biofuels Markets conference will be attended by Green Aviation, March 12-14, 2013. February, 2012′s, conference saw the largest ever attendance from the aviation sector. A couple of project highlights from that conference included a British Airways / Solena joint project to construct a $350 million waste-to-biofuels plant in East London, UK. The new plant could produce enough to take care of 2% of British Airways’ fuel needs in the area.

Carbon Offsetting

How do you green your flight? As testing has shown on many flights and different avation companies, biofuels are an excellent alternative. Soon you will be able to choose a flight utilizing renewable energy sources. Until then, you can consult with KarmaJets.com, which will plant trees to offset the CO2 emitted during your flight.

Whether on the road or in the sky, renewable energy sources are making more sense than ever, and the ability to achieve the same performance while generating less CO2 is certainly something worth noting.

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B. Jerew is an alternative fuels and hybrid technology expert.  He regularly contributes to venues such as AutoFoundry.com, a site that covers developments in green automotive technology.

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