Lufthansa operates commercial flight using new sugar-based biofuel and signs jatropha agreement
Lufthansa Airbus aircraft being refuelled with farnesane blend prior to Frankfurt-Berlin flight (photo: Lufthansa)
Fri 19 Sept 2014 – Following its recent approval by international fuel standards body ASTM, the sugar-based biofuel developed by the Total oil group and US-based biotech company Amyris was used by Lufthansa on a commercial flight from Frankfurt to Berlin on Monday (Sept 15). The synthetic biology fuel, called farnesane, was blended to its maximum permitted 10% with conventional jet kerosene and marks the first commercial use of the product in Europe. The biofuel, produced from Brazilian sugarcane, was first used on a GOL commercial flight between Orlando, Florida, and São Paulo in late July. The producers claim an up to 80% reduction in GHG emissions compared to petroleum products as well reduced emissions of particulate matter. Lufthansa has also signed an MoUl agreement with German company JatroSolutions to help make jet biofuel derived from the jatropha plant commercially viable.
The Amyris/Total fuel, termed Synthetic Iso-Paraffin (SIP) fuel, was approved by ASTM in June (see article) and involves a yeast fermentation process fed by sugarcane or other plant sugars to produce the unsaturated fermentation product farnesene. This undergoes a further conversion process to produce farnesane, which can then be used to make biojet or biodiesel.
As part of an EU blending study project, the fuel was rig tested at Lufthansa Technik’s facility in Hamburg in autumn 2013. The fuel also received sustainability certification from the Roundtable on Sustainable Biomaterials (RSB) in April (see article).
Lufthansa’s Memorandum of Understanding with JatroSolutions – a subsidiary of EnBW, Germany’s third-largest energy supplier – aims to work with the company set up a raw materials supply chain to ensure supplies of jatropha biomass to produce sustainable jet biofuel. Once hailed as a ‘miracle crop’ and grown in tropical and sub-tropical regions such as Africa and India, jatropha has fallen off the biofuel radar following reports of company failures, poor yields and sustainability issues. However, new strains of the plant and better agronomic practices are being developed by companies such as JatroSolutions. The company is a member of the German aviation industry alternative fuels group aireg.
“In order to secure the supply of aviation biofuel, the requisite raw materials must be cultivated sustainably, at competitive prices,” said Joachim Buse, Vice President Aviation Biofuel at Lufthansa. “Lufthansa Group companies therefore place great emphasis on the recognised certification of sustainably produced raw materials and on respecting social and development policy considerations. In JatroSolutions, we have found a competent partner who shares our values and our sustainability aspirations.”
Lufthansa said the two activities built on the work of its recently concluded burnFAIR research and analysis project, which involved it becoming the first airline to use a biofuel mix in scheduled daily operations when it conducted a six-month test with an Airbus A321 on the Frankfurt to Hamburg route during 2011.