Jatropha-based jet biofuel in final tests at Rolls-Royce before Air New Zealand test flight in December
Thu 6 Nov 2008 – The jatropha-based jet biofuel to power one of the four engines on the Air New Zealand Boeing 747-400 test flight set to take place next month has passed preliminary testing at the Rolls-Royce facility in Derby, UK. The exact date of the flight is to be confirmed once the fuel has completed a rigorous testing process to further validate its specifications. The airline also reports it has recently completed its first Required Navigation Performance (RNP) enabled A320 flight between Sydney and Queenstown, saving fuel and carbon emissions as well as reducing noise levels.
The biofuel test flight programme, the first using a second-generation biofuel, is a joint initiative between Air New Zealand, Boeing, Rolls-Royce and UOP, which has produced the jet fuel using its refining technology.
The jatropha oil has been independently sourced by Terasol Energy from south-eastern Africa (Malawi, Mozambique and Tanzania) and India, and fulfils the three “non-negotiable” criteria imposed by the partners: it must be sustainable and not compete with existing food resources; it must be a drop-in replacement for traditional jet fuel and technically at least as good; and it should be cost competitive with existing fuel supplies and be readily available.
In addition, the land used for growing the jatropha was neither forest land nor virgin grassland within the previous two decades, the quality of the soil and climate made it unsuitable for the majority of food crops, and the farms are rain-fed and not mechanically irrigated.
Air New Zealand, the first carrier in the world to have an entire Airbus fleet enabled by RNP, has fitted the technology onto its 13 A320s and will operate across the Tasman between Australia and Queenstown, so far the only New Zealand airport at which RNP is used. Last year, the airline fitted the new certified navigation technology onto six of its Boeing 737s operating domestically to and from Queenstown.
Captain Philip Kirk, the airline’s A320 RNP Project Manager, says the technology will provide a more reliable service into the weather-challenged airport. “RNP also offers a range of commercial and environmental benefits,” he adds. “Because of its high precision capability, it can reduce noise emissions and significantly reduce fuel consumption and carbon emissions by using much shorter, curved approaches to airports.”
Kirk said Air New Zealand will be working with regulatory bodies over the coming year to investigate how it can use the technology on A320 services into other airports.