"We are constantly looking for ways to become more fuel efficient and embrace new technologies and this partnership is a significant step on that journey."
In 2020, Qantas, the airline that eight years ago became one of the first to power a commercial flight with biofuel, will use plant-derived fuel for all services between Los Angeles and Australia.
In 2012, Qantas ran a plane between Los Angeles and Adelaide on the superstition-inducing day of Friday 13th with fuel comprising an equal 50/50 split of airline jet fuel and sunflower oil-based jet fuel. It was unable to carry out more flights at the time, however, owing to the fact that biofuel wasn’t being produced at anywhere near the industrial scale that it is today. Now, with supply problems soon to be a thing of the past, Qantas will buy 80m gallons (364m litres) of renewable jet fuel from US bio-energy company, SG Preston, over the next 10 years to run the route.
The 50:50 ratio is the same that the 2020 flights will use, confirmed Qantas, but it would instead use a sustainable “non-food plant oils” fuel. The latest version of biofuel that will power the cross-Pacific flight emits half the amount of carbon emissions for each gallon over its life cycle than standard jet fuel.
In 2011, it was reported that Spain’s national airline, Iberia, operated the country’s first commercial flight using a 75/25 mix of traditional jet fuel and biofuel derived from the camelina sativa plant.
Qantas said that the pioneering commercial biofuel agreement with SG Preston formed part of the aviation company’s commitment to lowering carbon emissions across its operations.
“We are constantly looking for ways to become more fuel efficient and embrace new technologies and this partnership is a significant step on that journey,” said Gareth Evans, chief executive officer of Qantas International and Freight, adding that it chose the US because the country has a biofuel industry more advanced that Australia’s.
“Through our biofuel program we are also exploring renewable jet fuel opportunities in Australia and continue to work with suppliers to develop locally produced biofuels for aviation use,” he said.
Qantas has not yet specified which Australian cities would be served by the new biofuel-powered fleet but, with Qantas offering links between Canberra and Perth (7,600 and 9,300 miles, respectively), the move by the company highlights the progress that’s been made with biofuel technology in recent years.
Welcoming the deal, the director of environment at IATA (International Air Transport Association), the trade body that represents the world’s airlines, said: “Deals such as these are critical to the development of an aviation biofuel sector globally and the achievement of the aviation industry’s climate goals.”
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