Officials for Lufthansa, the premiere German airline, recently announced that they will soon offer commercial flights powered by a 50-50 mix of biofuel and traditional kerosene.
In April 2011, Lufthansa will begin a six-month, 6.6 million Euro biofuel experiment with scheduled commercial flights on the Hamburg-Frankfurt-Hamburg route. The primary purpose of the project is to study the long-term effect of biofuel on engine maintenance and engine life.
Independent Traveler reports that there are two important differences between car travel and air travel:
1. Planes emit a stew of other harmful gases in addition to carbon dioxide.
2. Gases released in the upper atmosphere where planes cruise have a much greater impact than gases released on the ground due to something called the “radiative forcing” effect.
The sum total of the damage is almost twice that of driving a relatively fuel-efficient car.
During the six months that the biofuel mix is on trial, Lufthansa will save around 1,500 tonnes of CO2 emissions, said Lufthansa Chief Wolfgang Mayrhuber.
In addition to actually recording the fficiency and effect of using biofuel in its commercial jets, Lufthansa must also tackle the challenge of finding biofuel in sufficient volume and the complex logistics that will be involved with arranging fuel-ups without wasting time.
“Our fuel is sustainable. No rain forest will be deforested for Lufthansa biofuel,” said observed Mayrhuber. “In the procurement of biofuel, we ensure it originates from a sustainable supply and production process. Our licensed suppliers must provide proof of the sustainability of their processes.”
While Lufthansa’s experiment is significant, it’s not the first example of a major European airline commiting to a reduced carbon footprint. Earlier this year British Airways unveiled plans to establish Europe’s first ‘sustainable’ jet fuel plant which will produce aviation fuel from plasma gasification of biomass into BioSynGas.
Image Credit: Flickr - Ricardo Ricote