Japan Airlines (JAL) announced Tuesday that it will be the first airline to conduct a demonstration flight using a sustainable biofuel refined from the energy crop, camelina.
A blend of 50% biofuel and 50% traditional Jet-A jet (kerosene) fuel will be tested in one of the four Pratt & Whitney JT9D engines of a JAL-owned Boeing 747-300 aircraft. The biofuel component to be used will be a mixture of three second-generation biofuel feedstocks: camelina (84%), jatropha (under 16%), and algae (under 1%). This will make the JAL biofuel demonstration flight the first one to be powered by camelina, and the first using a combination of three sustainable feedstocks. It will also be the first biofuel demo by an Asian carrier, as well as the first one using Pratt & Whitney engines.
Camelina, also known as gold-of-pleasure or false flax, is an energy crop, given its high oil content and ability to grow in rotation with wheat and other cereal crops. The crop is mostly grown in more moderate climates such as the northern plains of the U.S, and originally hails from northern Europe and Central Asia. It can be grown even in dry areas, poor soil and at high altitudes. It is classified as a 'traditional' crop, but is considered next-generation given that its primary use is as a biofuel feedstock.
The camelina to be used in the JAL demo flight was sourced by Sustainable Oils, Inc, a U.S.-based provider of renewable, environmentally clean, and high-value camelina-based fuels. Terasol Energy sourced and provided the jatropha oil, and the algae oil was provided by Sapphire Energy.
JAL, Boeing, Pratt & Whitney, and Honeywell's UOP have committed to the use of second-generation biofuel feedstocks that are more efficient and sustainable energy than first-generation counterparts. Second-generation biofuel feedstocks, such as camelina, jatropha and algae, do not compete with natural food or water resources and do not contribute to deforestation practices.
The approximately one-hour demo flight out of Haneda Airport, operated by JAL staff with no passengers on board, is scheduled for early January. The flight will be the final stage in a 12-month process to conclusively confirm the sustainable biofuel's operational performance capabilities and potential commercial viability.© JCN