Thai Airways set to operate Asia’s first commercial passenger biofuel flight, with Qantas to follow in early 2012
Thai Airways 777-300ER (photo: Boeing)
Sun 11 Dec 2011 – Thai Airways is to operate Asia’s first commercial passenger flight to be powered using a biofuel blend. An inaugural VIP flight of a Boeing 777-200 aircraft will take place on December 21 and the following day a scheduled passenger flight will fly from Bangkok to Chiang Mai. Details of the source of the biofuel and the blend mix have not yet been released by the airline, which says it is looking to pioneer the use of sustainable biofuels in Asia and Southeast Asia, and is encouraging other airlines in the region to follow suit. Meanwhile, Qantas is planning Australia’s first sustainable biofuel commercial flight in early 2012, according to CEO Alan Joyce. Seen as a gateway to the Asia-Pacific region, Boeing is to collaborate on a project that aims to bring renewable aviation biofuel production to Hawaii.
Thai Airways President Piyasvasti Amranand said that sustainability was in line with the renewable energy vision of the King of Thailand and the use of biofuels would support the airline’s Travel Green initiative that was part of its Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) programme.
The inaugural flight will include representatives that have supported the jet biofuel project, including PTT, Aeronautical Radio of Thailand (AEROTHAI), the Department of Civil Aviation, Boeing and Rolls-Royce.
Passengers, including 100 students and professors who have been invited, on the following day’s first commercial flight will be encouraged to take part in CSR initiatives, and revenue from the flight will go towards developing renewable energy in Thailand.
Qantas CEO Alan Joyce told a recent conference in Brisbane that the airline was currently improving fuel efficiency by an average of 1.5% per year through fleet renewal, new technology, fuel optimisation and reducing resource consumption.
“While these initiatives can achieve significant improvements, only the production of sustainable aviation fuel on a commercial scale can deliver a generational step in emissions reduction,” he said.
Announcing the airline’s intention to operate a commercial flight powered by sustainable fuel in early 2012, Joyce added: “We want the flight to be an inspiration – a preview of a sustainable future for Australian aviation. This country certainly has the human capital, the finance and the resources to be a global leader in bringing new kinds of aviation fuel to market.
“But if we are going to achieve this, we will need strong and effective partnerships with both public and private sector players including airports. That’s how we will develop the overall infrastructure needed in Australia to support regular commercial biofuel flights.”
A Qantas spokesman told GreenAir the biofuel commercial flight was planned for February, with more details likely to be released in the new year.
Earlier this year, Qantas signed agreements with two US companies in the alternative jet fuel field, Solazyme and Solena, to assess the best sustainable fuel technologies. Feasibility studies with both companies are now in progress.
Meanwhile, Boeing has entered into an agreement with Hawai’i BioEnergy to identify biofuel sources and supporting technologies for producing sustainable jet fuel in Hawaii. The two will look at various crops including sorghum and eucalyptus as potential sources that can be grown locally and converted to jet fuel. The collaboration will also look to assess new supporting technologies for aviation biofuel production.
“As an Asia-Pacific gateway and leading tourism destination, Hawaii can play a meaningful role in helping aviation reduce carbon emissions, while increasing regional energy resources,” said Billy Glover, Boeing Commercial Airplanes Vice President of Environment and Aviation Policy. “This collaborative effort will allow us to examine potential local options, while protecting the beauty and culture these islands have to offer.”
As an island state, Hawaii is currently dependent on imported energy but Hawai’i BioEnergy is leading the development of a local biofuels industry and is a supplier of renewable energy to the Hawaiian Electric Company.
“We are looking forward to working with Boeing in addressing Hawaii’s energy needs, particularly for aviation fuel,” said Hawai’i BioEnergy’s Chief Operating Officer Joel Matsunaga. “We have the opportunity to shape a more sustainable energy future for our children and generations to come in Hawaii while creating economic growth for the State.”
The company was established by three of Hawaii’s largest land owners and has backing from a number of venture capital groups, including Vinod Khosla. Khosla has also provided funding for respected biofuel companies such as Gevo, LanzaTech and Amyris.