Canadian unblended biofuel commercial aircraft flight test shows significant reductions in emissions and fuel consumption
The T-33 tails the Falcon to collect information on the emissions generated by the biofuel (photo: NRC)
Tue 8 Jan 2013 – Analysis of the industry-first 100% biofuel-powered flight carried out on a civil jet aircraft last October has produced some interesting findings. The flight was conducted by the National Research Council of Canada (NRC) using its Falcon 20 test aircraft with both engines using unblended ReadiJet aviation fuel produced from the sustainable oilseed crop Brassica carinata. The Falcon was trailed in flight by a second aircraft, a T-33, to capture and measure engine emissions produced from the fuel. NRC experts have revealed that compared with conventional kerosene fuel, there was a reduction of 50% in aerosol emissions and in addition to a comparable engine performance, the tests show an improvement of 1.5% in specific fuel consumption during steady state operations. Additional static engine ground tests also showed a significant reduction of up to 25% in particles and up to 49% in black carbon emissions compared to the fossil fuel equivalent.
“We are pleased with these positive results,” said NRC President, John McDougall. “The flight went smoothly and the data collected enables us to better understand the impact of biofuel on the environment.”
Aircraft are certified to use a maximum of 50/50 biofuel blends in commercial operations because of the lack of important aromatic compounds in biofuels. However, the Falcon’s engines required no modification as the biofuel met the specification test property limits of petroleum-based fuels, says NRC. The aircraft flew with both engines on the ReadiJet fuel at 30,000 feet, similar to regular commercial aircraft altitude.
ReadiJet is produced by Applied Research Associates (ARA) and Chevron Lummus Global from ‘Resonance’ feedstock supplied by Agrisoma Biosciences, with the US Air Force Research Laboratory a further partner in the project.
“Partnering with NRC’s outstanding team to fly the first ever 100% biofuels flight with a fuel that meets petroleum specifications test property limits without blending was historic,” said Chuck Red, ARA’s Biofuel Program Manager. “Their exceptional data collection capabilities and detailed analysis shows that our ReadiJet, which produces much lower lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions than petroleum, will also contribute to a cleaner environment with significantly lower aerosol, particle and black carbon emissions.”
ARA said there was a lifecycle greenhouse gas reduction in the range of 80% using ReadiJet compared with fossil fuels. Last month, ReadiJet was voted the ‘best new fuel of 2012’ by the influential Biofuels Digest and the test flight itself was described by Popular Science magazine as one of the 25 most important science events of 2012.
The Resonance industrial oilseed crop, part of the mustard family, used to make the biofuel is ideally suited to the semi-arid region of the southern Prairies, says Agrisoma, and in 2012 around 40 commercial growers in Western Canada were contracted to grow over 6,000 acres of the crop to supply the jet biofuel for the NRC flight and testing.
“We will continue to work with our partners ARA, Chevron Lummus Global and Agrisoma to bring this effective energy solution to market. The final product will be a sustainable option for reducing aviation emissions,” said McDougall.
The initiative is funded by NRC, Agrisoma and ARA, along with the Government of Canada’s Clean Transportation Initiatives and the Green Aviation Research and Development Network (GARDN).