Locally-sourced algae lined up as probable biofuel for Air New Zealand test flight later this year
Air New Zealand B747-400 (photo: Christchurch International Airport)
Tue 18 Mar 2008 – Local reports are suggesting the biofuel to be used on the Air New Zealand test flight scheduled for later this year is likely to be from an algae-based source supplied by a New Zealand company, Aquaflow Bionomic Corporation, an algae biodiesel developer.
The speculation has arisen following yesterday’s announcement by Aquaflow that it had appointed a New Zealand aviation consultant, Des Ashton “to lead key areas of operational development, in particular aviation projects”. Ashton, a qualified pilot and aeronautical engineer, runs his own Blenheim-based aviation consultancy, Ashton Technologies, and was previously CEO of Port Marlborough, which oversaw port operations as well as operating Blenheim Airport. He has also served as Chairman of the Defence Industry Committee of New Zealand and Vice-chairman of the Aircraft Industry Association Engineering Division.
“Des brings considerable skill and experience to Aquaflow. His appointment marks the transition through to a new stage of development,” commented Aquaflow director Nick Gerritsen.
Aquaflow made a world-first breakthrough in algae biodiesel development when the New Zealand Minister of Energy, Hon. David Parker, drove an unmodified standard Land Rover along the Wellington Motorway in December 2006, powered by Aquaflow bio-diesel. Since then, the company says “it has had considerable interest from around the world, including organizations keen to explore the fuel’s potential for aviation purposes.”
According to its website, “Aquaflow Bionomic Corporation has set itself the objective to be the first company in the world to economically produce biofuel from wild algae harvested from open-air environments, to market it, and meet the challenge of increasing demand.”
The company’s technology harvests algae directly from the settling ponds of standard Effluent Management Systems and other nutrient-rich water. The two-step process firstly optimizes the ponds’ productive capacity, and secondly, determines the most efficient and economic way of harvesting the pond algae. Algae are provided with full opportunity to exploit the nutrients available in the settling ponds, thereby cleaning up the water. The algae are then harvested to remove the remaining contaminant. A last stage of bio-remediation, still in development, ensures that the water discharge from the process exceeds acceptable quality standards.
Last week, Continental Airlines announced that in 2009 it would be the first US airline to undertake a trial biofuel-powered Boeing 737 flight but didn’t release details of the type or blend mix of the biofuel to be used. The Virgin Boeing 747 demonstration flight last month used a babassu and coconut oil-based blend in one of its four engines.
Air New Zealand is partnering with Boeing and Rolls-Royce on its project.