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Boeing 747-8 Freighter to make first biofuel-powered transatlantic flight

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June 16, 2011

When the new Boeing 747-8 Freighter flies from Seattle to the Paris Air Show, it will mark...

When the new Boeing 747-8 Freighter flies from Seattle to the Paris Air Show, it will mark the first time a commercial aircraft has crossed the Atlantic Ocean using biofuel (Photo: Boeing)

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One of the aircraft on display at next week's Paris Air Show will be Boeing's new 747-8 Freighter. While the 76-meter (250-foot) jumbo jet will no doubt be pretty impressive to see on the ground, what many gawkers may not realize is that its flight from Seattle to Paris will have marked an aviation milestone - it will be the first time a commercial aircraft has crossed the Atlantic Ocean using biofuel.

All four of the plane's General Electric GEnx-2B engines will be burning a blend of 15 percent camelina-based biofuel and 85 percent traditional Jet-A kerosene fuel. Camelina is a plant that is sometimes grown for animal feed, but is increasingly grown specifically for use in aviation biofuel.

No changes needed to be made to the aircraft, its engines or its operating procedures in order to use the blended fuel. According to Boeing, in tests of other biofuels, the aircraft have actually performed slightly better than they did using pure kerosene fuel.

When the new Boeing 747-8 Freighter flies from Seattle to the Paris Air Show, it will mark...

The use of such fuels is reportedly part of the company's effort to reduce the environmental impact of their aircraft, while also improving mileage and reducing engine noise. The biofuel-burning 747-8 Freighter should be entering regular service in coming months, with what Boeing describes as "a double-digit reduction in carbon emissions."

The passenger version of the 747-8, the Intercontinental, made its maiden flight this March.

About the Author
Ben Coxworth An experienced freelance writer, videographer and television producer, Ben's interest in all forms of innovation is particularly fanatical when it comes to human-powered transportation, film-making gear, environmentally-friendly technologies and anything that's designed to go underwater. He lives in Edmonton, Alberta, where he spends a lot of time going over the handlebars of his mountain bike, hanging out in off-leash parks, and wishing the Pacific Ocean wasn't so far away.   All articles by Ben Coxworth
11 Comments

Oh a gas turbine engine burning a RANGE OF of near identical hydrocarbon fuels....

So what?

My toilet flushes my poop, my friends poop, the odd bit of cat poop and balls of hair from my hair brush.

Again -so what?

Mr Stiffy
16th June, 2011 @ 09:29 pm PDT

I'm guessing the point is that petroleum based fuels are not sustainable (and getting expensive) so we need alternatives. To liberate a specific amount of energy you need to break a specific number of chemical bonds. The available number of bonds would presumably be different for the two fuel components, so the proportions of the mixture would be critical. The test shows they can accurately calculate a usable mixture made from relatively inexpensive components, and one that doesn't require modification of the engine. I've seen other trials with other types of engines where that turned out to be the case. So the solution with biofuels may be in the fuel mixure chemistry, rather than the engine design.

P.J.Clemons
17th June, 2011 @ 07:04 am PDT

We have enough petroleum to last 100 years, plus the gigantic natural gas reserves. But with approx. $3.00 per gallon in taxes, I can see why some senators would like to spend more of our taxes to subsidize agribusiness with this free handout.

Todd Dunning
17th June, 2011 @ 10:29 am PDT

Using crop land to grow fuel is just asinine.

Slowburn
17th June, 2011 @ 11:34 am PDT

The irony is that the internal combustion engine burned alcohol before there WAS petroleum based 'gas'... so, good they are moving back to a more sustainable fuel! Oh, and for a LONG time after Standard Oil did have gas available for cars, the octane was too low so they continued to burn alcohol!

Robert A Sawtelle
17th June, 2011 @ 01:12 pm PDT

Slowburn, some would say that making uninformed statements is asinine. Camelina can be grown in poor soils with little water and fertilizer, conditions that wouldn't support food crops. There's no competition. Not only is it a hardy weed, it can control soil erosion in the same areas.

Gadgeteer
17th June, 2011 @ 06:34 pm PDT

Earth must now feed the aircrafts, that's the reason they can't reach the needs of food for the global population. Waste of time, resources, this biofuel. We need another concept than common internal combustion engines.

Iosif Eugen Olimpiu
18th June, 2011 @ 01:52 pm PDT

Gadgeteer - June 17, 2011 @ 06:34 pm PDT --- Camelina is used as animal feed, and for all either of us know it might be quite tasty.

Slowburn
19th June, 2011 @ 04:43 pm PDT

My gripe :

"Oh a gas turbine engine burning a RANGE OF of near identical hydrocarbon fuels....

So what?"

In simplistic terms - -

Gas turbine engines can digest almost anything - from hot tar to coal dust.

I just have the shits up about seeing one more aircraft company // transport // PR exercise - saying "Ohhhhh we tested our aircraft on biofuel - but we only ran one engine on it, and we taxied up and down the runway - never exceeding 20Kmh, so all the passengers were completely safe.... Oh, Oh, Oh etc."

It's the insipidness of the whole damned report and the exercise it's self.

To me it smacks of corporate masturbation.

You get a fuel - run a heap of tests on it - for freezing point, flash point, compatibility with the whole chain of the fuel system components, run it on a static test bed, then progress to one engine of a working freighter... then pull it down during the normal overhauls - compare it to the other 3 engines running on regular fuel... If it all works - great.

Put it into service.

It's the never ending drama queen antics and the attendant side show circus "Oh we ran our engine on biofuel" - for the 500th bloody time - that shits me.

Mr Stiffy
19th June, 2011 @ 07:28 pm PDT

Slowburn, I strongly suggest you try to learn more before pushing your foot even further into your mouth. Camelina meal is FDA approved as animal feed (and no, people don't eat it). Meal is what's left after you've pressed out the oil, which is what's used in this biofuel. And again, camelina is not grown on farmland. It's grown in areas that other food crops will not grow in.

Mr. Stiffy, you're getting upset over nothing. Only external combustion gas turbines can run on the solid fuels you mentioned, and those are designed for things like ground-based power plants, where there can be lots of space for the external combustion chamber and fuel handling equipment and weight doesn't matter. Aircraft engines are internal combustion. You'll never get coal dust or hot tar to run through the fuel system of any aircraft.

Gadgeteer
20th June, 2011 @ 04:19 pm PDT

@ Gadgeteer- Well Duh....

I never said you COULD feed a JET ENGINE in their current configuration, on anything from HOT TAR to COAL dust....

The issue was demonstrative of the principle that by coupling a compressor and and expansion turbine onto a common shaft - that you could even heat up the air going through the system, with a wood fire....

But to prove my point and to irritate you - you could mix in pulverised coal dust or tar with the jet fuel and the aircraft engine would run on that too.....

So "Dubble Duh" to you as well.

Mr Stiffy
20th June, 2011 @ 07:26 pm PDT
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