Planes Move Towards Plant-Based Fuel
Jet fuels made from plants such as jatropha and camelina are being tested by airlines like British Airways and Continental Airlines. Boeing Corporation has been working with various airlines to help them test the plant-based biofuels. These plant-based biofuels could help reduce carbon emissions from jet engines.
In the United States airlines produce about three percent of carbon dioxide generated in the United States. One percent of all commercial airline jet fuel could be made from plant oils by 2015, to help reduce the impact on climate change. One percent of annual commercial jet fuel consumption is equal to about 500-600 millions gallons, according to this recent article from the Seattle Times. (In the Pacific Northwest, Boeing, Alaska Airlines and Washington State University are working together to study how their region could produce biofuels for jets locally.)
Test flights have taken place over the last 2-3 years on Virgin Atlantic, Air New Zealand, Continental Airlines, and Japan Airlines which have used biofuels from jatropha, camelina, coconut- and babassu-derived biofuel blend and algae. The Air New Zealand flight actually used a blend with 50 percent biofuel. The use of biofuels in commercials jets has a potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions tremendously. Camelina biofuel has been said to reduce greenhouse emissions by up to 80 percent. It is also being tested in a turboprop plane.
Camelina is in the same flower plant family as cabbage and cauliflower. Jatropha seeds contain up to 40 percent oil, and that is why they can be used to make biodiesel. So far however, growing Jatropha plants has not been standardized in a way to yield consistent oil quality. Alage oil is also a good candidate for making biofuel. Research is currently being conducted into how to maximize oil yields.
Image Credit: Wikki Commons