India takes first step towards using bio fuel to fly aircraftIts environmental advantages are well-known. Airlines across the world have used it to power their flights and, on August 27, India too took tentative steps in this field when SpiceJet operated a Bombardier Q-400 aircraft powered by a blend of bio-jet and aviation turbine fuel (ATF) on a 40-minute flight between Dehradun and Delhi. Virgin Atlantic was among the first airlines to use biofuel in 2008 when it used a fuel derived from a mixture of Brazilian babassu nuts and coconuts on its Boeing 747 aircraft to fly between Heathrow and Amsterdam. In 2016, KLM Cityhoppers’ E190, flying from Oslo to Amsterdam, were powered by biofuel produced from camelina plant oil. In the same year, Cathay Pacific operated the longest biofuel flight at that time when taking delivery of its first Airbus A-350-900 aircraft. And earlier this year, Qantas operated the world’s first dedicated biofuel flight between the US and Australia. The 15-hour trans-Pacific flight was operated with blended biofuel, saving 18,000 kg in carbon emissions.
Many advantages to biofuels
The advantages of using biofuel are many. These fuels are environmentally friendly. Further, airlines are also looking at them to cut down on the high ATF costs. Says the Sustainable Aviation Fuel Users Group (SAFUG), “Sustainable biofuels may offer a solution to this problem since their production can be spread worldwide, and across a number of different crops, thereby reducing airlines’ exposure to the fuel cost volatility that comes with having a single energy source.” Japan Airlines, Singapore Airlines, Lufthansa, Cathay Pacific and South African Airways are among the 28 airlines that are part of the Grouping. Further, biofuels can also provide economic benefits to parts of the world that have large amounts of land that is either unviable or marginal for food crops, but is suitable for growing second-generation biofuel crops. Biofuel that can be used as jet-fuel can be prepared using animal fat, vegetable oil and agricultural waste. The SpiceJet flight used jatropha plant sourced from nearly 500 farmer families in Chhattisgarh for fuelling its flight. The blending was done by CSIR-Indian Institute of Petroleum.