Virgin Atlantic Airlines has used a sustainable fuel from biomass mixed with traditional jet fuel to power one engine on a 747 flight from London Heathrow to Amsterdam. The fuel was supplied by Imperium Renewables of Seattle, Washington, a commercial biodiesel refiner.
As promised in their earlier news releases, Virgin Atlantic said they would use a sustainable fuel made from feedstock not normally used for food products. Both coconut oil and babassu oil are used in cosmetic products, lip balm and other such applications. The raw materials were harvested from existing, mature plantations in Brazil.
Sir Richard Branson, president of Virgin Atlantic is quoted as saying,
“Today marks a biofuel breakthrough for the whole airline industry, Virgin Atlantic nd its partners have proved that you can find an alternative to
traditional jet fuel and fly a plane on biofuel. This pioneering flight
will enable those of us who are serious about reducing our carbon emissions
to go on developing the fuels of the future, fuels which will power our
aircraft in the years ahead.”
There was wide speculation that an algae-based biofuel would be used in the test, but that, of course, proved false even though Virgin Atlantic hinted strongly at the possibility.
According to Radio Netherlands the Boeing 747 landed at Amsterdam’s Schipol airport after a successful flight.
Engineers will now study results of tests taken during the trip to determine if sustainable biofuels will fit into commercial aviation and lessen CO2 emissions.
Not everyone agrees, however, that biofuels will “fly”, as noted here by Pem Charnley, contributor to Green Options’ EcoWorldly blog. His feelings are outlined here, Pies in the Sky.