JAL to test biofuel for airliner in January


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.


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Ok 2 points. 1) with JALs record who is gonna trust them to do this correctly? 2) hasn't biofuel already been proved to be a bad choice by the USA? I'll be taking ANA for a little longer me thinks.

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Biofuel works, there is no argument about that. A jet turbine can run on pretty much any type of fuel, kerosene, diesel, and even gasoline or alcohol. The problem is that it takes vast amounts of plants to make a limited amount of fuel. Increasing use of biofuels in recent years has caused a large increase in the price of food, which has been felt the most strongly in developing countries. This is just a publicity stunt for JAL, many Japanese companies are trying to pass themselves off as being "green".

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Sangetsu: That has been the case. The fuel they have been testing in the airlines is a mix of algae and jatropa a plant from Central American with high oil content and can be grown in barren regions. They have been looking away from plant based fuels so as not disrupt the food supply.

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first sorry for the long post. Some ideas to seriously consider. This is for starters the number one warning sign from a canary. The airlines are canaries of world Peak Oil. Always watch the canaries.

You all make valid points. Use land to grow food to eat. Use land to grow food to fly. Pick one. (fly!) Wrong!

On top of that no biofuel on earth can create the same amount of energy as kerosene jet fuel so you're not going to go the same distance for the same amount of full tank. The kilojoules would not be equivalent. So, you'd need more tanks, which makes the plane heavier etc and the range goes down again. You can't win. It's the old polish rug trick, cut a bit from the top and sew it to the bottom. It's not hot swappable. It's a no go. It's a dead parrot. Bad idea. Bad.

How about this: If you'd just fly 1/3rd less you'd save the fuel and not burden crop yields for flights, and maybe use your local trains more (if over land). Or if you use 1/2 the fuel and create an emergency fuel reserve with the rest that would also help supplies.

Most biofuel is an ERoEI (energy returned on energy invested) energy loser, and does not scale commerically. Unless this is hand grown and sown with oxen there is nothing sustainable about it. It's fine for local use, but that's about it. You basically run out of land or use too much energy in creating, refining and shipping it as you get bigger. Oh yeah, they would have to ship it wouldn't they? Kinda defeats the purpose slightly. The shipping ship/plane wouldn't run on it. If it did it would run out of fuel before it arrived. You'd have to send twice the number of ships to cover the 2/3rds lost by the ships! Sweet irony.

As the beginning indicated, this is important. Put another way, not a single one of us is going to fly in the years ahead as oil dwindles anyway. Between 5 and 7 years, but no more. Mexico Oil will go bust in 3 years, which will start a chain reaction and make supplies tight. Oh, and on top of that, the IEA Paris World Report from Nov 2008 has stated a worldwide oil decline rate of 6.7% per year! That's about 50% less oil in ten years, with a growing global population. I'm saying 5-7 because I don't think it will be so smooth.

We might avoid this stark decline due to the global recession/depression, but it's over for airlines everywhere. Airlines are going out of business at about 30 a year, and increasing. That means we're probably going back to ships!

Travel sooner rather than later if you can. And always watch the market to see how many have gone. Count the canaries.

Follow the train of thought (or plane of thought in this case har har) at on a variety of topics. bittorrent/Google/View "The End of Suburbia" documentary then use current stats.

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Ofcourse JAL will have to use biofuel they stocked when oil was $147/barrel. poor investment, now you can buy oil just for $40+

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sf2k: you are right but for domestic flights they can make the difference. If they can save some fuel and be more echo friendly on short distances.

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some14some: if you know what the future holds, tell us. We may save some bucks too.

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May not be the best source for a "bio-fuel" however, dependancy on fossil fuel is a dead end.

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