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World’s first 100 percent biofuel-powered flight of civil aircraft

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November 6, 2012

The 100 percent biofuel-powered Falcon 20 being tailed by the data-collecting T-33

The 100 percent biofuel-powered Falcon 20 being tailed by the data-collecting T-33

Earlier this year, Air Canada joined a growing number of airlines conducting flights using biofuels. Like similar flights by Boeing and Lufthansa, the aircraft was powered by a mix of petroleum and biofuel. Now the National Research Council of Canada (NRC) has removed the fossil fuel component completely with the first flight of a civil jet powered by 100 percent unblended biofuel.

In the milestone flight over Ottawa on October 29, the twin engines of a specially equipped Dassault Falcon 20 business jet were powered by a biofuel derived from oilseed crops. The Falcon 20, with NRC pilot Tim Leslie at the controls, was tailed by a T-33, which collected data on the emissions generated by the biofuel-powered aircraft. NRC researchers will use the information gathered during the flight to gain a better understanding of the environmental impact of biofuel.

The drop-in jet biofuel, called ReadiJet, is produced from Resonance Energy Feedstock, a brand of industrial oilseed crop developed by Agrisoma Biosciences Inc. from Brassica carinata, a plant also known as Ethiopian mustard.

Agrisoma says the elite lines of B. carinata it has developed offer growers high yields, high oil content, and are ideally suited to the semi-arid growing conditions that can be found in the southern Prairies of Canada and Northern Plains of the U.S. Over 40 commercial growers in Western Canada have been contracted this year to grow over 6,000 acres (2,428 hectares) of the crop that will be used to create the 100 percent biofuel.

The feedstock was converted into biofuel by Applied Research Associates (ARA) and Chevron Lummus Global (CLG) using their ISOCONVERSION Process, which they claim is a quick, low-cost process that uses water at high temperature and pressure to convert renewable oils into a “crude oil intermediate.” This intermediate is then reacted with hydrogen over CLG catalysts and processed into alternative fuels the companies say are “virtually indistinguishable from their petroleum counterparts.”

Preliminary results from the 100 percent biofuel-powered flight are expected in the coming weeks.

Source: NRC, Agrisoma, ARA

About the Author
Darren Quick Darren's love of technology started in primary school with a Nintendo Game & Watch Donkey Kong (still functioning) and a Commodore VIC 20 computer (not still functioning). In high school he upgraded to a 286 PC, and he's been following Moore's law ever since. This love of technology continued through a number of university courses and crappy jobs until 2008, when his interests found a home at Gizmag.   All articles by Darren Quick
4 Comments

Whilst I can see the advantages, I can't help feeling this is a step sideways, if not backwards. Presumably, as demand rises, we are now going to see more and more agricultural land put to Bio Fuel production, as the profits from that will undoubtedly be far greater than anything as mundane as mere food production. Farmers are only human; they want to be successful and what they do has to be profitable. Will this result in even higher world price rises for staples like wheat, barley, oats, rice and essentials like vegetables? You only have to see how oil seed rape is taking over the countryside in UK and Europe to know some sort of regulation will be required before food stocks suffer and we all feel the pinch.

Mike Hallett
7th November, 2012 @ 07:04 am PST

I can see this as a step forward. Airlines could develop and run their own large enclosed multi-story automated farm buildings in areas which are less conducive to farming. It would give them a steady supply of fuel which would smooth out their pricing factors. They might not supply 100% of the fuel demands but it would be of benefit.

Michael Webb
7th November, 2012 @ 09:56 am PST

If airlines can adapt to this, maybe lower fuel costs thus lower ticket prices. Must for Gen Av & commercial planes

Stephen N Russell
7th November, 2012 @ 04:59 pm PST

re; Stephen N Russell

Bio fuels are significantly more expensive than oil or coal based fuels.

Slowburn
12th November, 2012 @ 12:38 pm PST
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