Akbar Al Baker, Qatar Airways' CEO
Wed 14 Nov 2007 – Qatar Airways has signed an agreement with aero-engine, airplane, oil and research partners to collaborate on developing a synthetic jet fuel that will enable it to become the world’s first commercial airline to fly aircraft powered by natural gas.
The carrier sees the gas-to-liquids (GTL) kerosene fuel as the “technology of the future that will be environmentally friendly, help to significantly reduce carbon emissions and reduce the impact on climate change.”
A Letter of Intent was signed at a Dubai Air Show ceremony hosted by Qatar Airways’ CEO Akbar Al Baker.
“There is a huge movement lobbying for the reduction in carbon emissions to make for a cleaner and safer environment,” he said. “The aviation industry has been at the centre of this highly topical debate. We, as industry leaders, are committed to this cause and today’s move highlights how seriously we take this important issue.
“Together with our partners, we will all work in close collaboration to study the use of synthetic jet fuels, or GTL kerosene, in our drive towards a cleaner and safer world. We look forward to becoming the first airline in the world to power commercial aircraft with natural gas.”
As well as Qatar Airways, the consortium comprises Rolls-Royce, Airbus, Qatar Petroleum, Shell, Qatar Science & Technology Park and Woqod (Qatar Fuel Company). Research will focus on the benefits of using GTL kerosene, with particular emphasis on improved air quality, fuel economy and reduced carbon emissions in and around airports and at cruising altitude.
First flight trials are due to take place before the end of 2008 and, if successful, the fuel could enter service by 2010. On a barrel-for-barrel comparison with kerosene, the synthetic fuel would be more expensive but this would be offset by an expected lower fuel consumption.
Training and research will be carried out at state-of-the-art facilities within the Qatar Science and Technology Park. Qatar Petroleum and Shell are currently building a multi-billion dollar, world-class, fully-integrated gas-to-liquids complex, which is aimed at making Qatar the “GTL capital of the world”. Qatar has large natural gas reserves.
Keen to stress existing 'green' credentials, Al Baker said his airline already had a department that specifically looked into ways of reducing fuel burn by eliminating unnecessary weight on its aircraft.
Qatar Airways is one of the world’s fastest growing airlines, operating a fleet of 58 all-Airbus aircraft that is expected to double by 2015 with the addition of new generation aircraft such as the Airbus A350, Boeing 777 and Boeing 787. It is a launch customer for the A380 ‘super jumbo’ with five aircraft on order, scheduled for delivery from 2010.
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