Biofuels on commercial flights in 2011

German airlines Lufthansa announced on Monday that it will start using bio-kerosene on April 2011 for commercial flights on Hamburg-Frankfurt route. The six-month trial with an Airbus A321 will use a 50-50 mix of traditional kerosene and Finland-based Neste Oil’s renewable diesel NExBTL made from hydrotreated vegetable oil (I’m assuming feedstock could be rapeseed oil or palm oil).

The aircraft will specifically use a blend of 50% NExBTL jet fuel and 50% fossil-based jet fuel in one engine, while the other engine will use conventional jet fuel.

Neste Oil said the feedstock will be sustainably sourced and that it will not compete for food, water, nor land.

I am actually going to write an article about “Green Diesel” from companies such as Neste Oil, Syntroleum/Dynamic Fuels and UOP/Honeywell so for ICIS Chemical Business (ICB) subscribers, stay tune for that on December 13.

Back to Lufthansa’s news, the project is expected to cost the company EUR 6.6m.

Scanning some previous biofuel reports that I’ve received the past year, the outlook for airline biofuels is said to be positive, according to a report from Accenture, mainly because the technology challenges have been fairly overcome. The use of biofuel in the very competitive aviation industry will also alleviate pressures from fuel cost aside from reducing carbon emissions, which is necessary in a very tightly regulated industry.

However, the challenge here is supply given the limited feedstock availability and competing demand for biofuels in road transport. Which is why, producers of these type of diesel is constantly looking for feedstock alternatives such as algae, jatropha and camelina (non-food based oilseeds).

I’ve mentioned in previous posts about KLM testing camelina oil-based biofuel developed by Honeywell’s UOP business, as well as Air China looking to use UOP’s green diesel as well.

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