Qatar Airways undertakes first commercial passenger flight powered by a natural gas blended jet fuel
GTL Jet Fuel consortium members line up pre-flight
Tue 13 Oct 2009 – A Rolls-Royce-powered Airbus A340-600 operated by Qatar Airways yesterday undertook a six-hour flight between London Gatwick and Doha using a jet fuel made from natural gas blended 50-50 with conventional petroleum-based kerosene. The synthetic Gas-to-Liquid (GTL) blended fuel, developed by Shell, is expected to be produced in commercial quantities of around one million tonnes per annum from 2012. The synthetic blended fuel was recently approved for safe commercial aviation use by ASTM International (see article). Although there are no reductions in carbon emissions, the cleaner burning fuel emits lower sulphur dioxide and particulates, providing improved local air quality at airports.
The flight is the latest step in a programme started two years ago by a consortium that in addition to Qatar Airways and Shell, includes Airbus, Rolls-Royce, Qatar Petroleum, Qatar Science & Technology Park (where much of the development work has been carried out) and fuel logistics company WOQOD, which is providing storage and supply logistics to Doha International Airport. Data from the flight will be used by scientists in Qatar to further quantify the benefits of the fuel.
Qatar Airways Chief Executive Officer Akbar Al Baker, who was onboard the flight, said: “Qatar Airways is proud to be associated with this consortium and to become the world’s first airline to use this new fuel technology on a commercial passenger flight.
“Once again, Qatar Airways has shown its commitment to the environment and we expect this alternative fuel to provide benefits, particularly the improvement of air quality. This milestone flight is the first step in making this alternative fuel available to airlines. Qatar Airways looks forward to continuing to work with the consortium members to further develop this exciting project and commit towards a cleaner environment.”
The blend of conventional kerosene and GTL kerosene will be known as GTL Jet Fuel and aims to take advantage of Qatar’s large natural gas reserves and contribute to a diversification away from conventional aviation fuel supply.
“Qatar’s position as the GTL capital of the world has been further enhanced with today’s achievement. GTL technology enables us to produce liquid fuels and other products from natural gas. Commercial aviation is one of the exciting new markets that this opens up, helping us maximize the value from our natural resources,” said His Excellency Abdulla bin Hamad Al-Attiyah, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Energy and Industry of the State of Qatar.
Malcolm Brinded, Shell’s Executive Director Upstream International, added: “Today’s flight opens the door to an alternative to oil-based aviation fuel. Shell has been developing the technology to convert natural gas into valuable liquid transportation fuels, lubricants and chemical feedstocks for over 30 years. We are now well on the way to launching GTL on a world scale for the first time thanks to our partnership with Qatar Petroleum.”
Airbus’ Senior Vice President Public Affairs and Communications, Rainer Ohler said: “The journey from the A380’s historic first GTL flight by a civil aircraft to today’s historic first passenger flight using GTL, shows that drop in fuels are real and viable. This is a major breakthrough which brings us closer to a world where fuels made from feedstocks such as wood-chip waste and other biomass is available for commercial aviation. Airbus predicts that in 2030, up to 30% of jet fuel will be alternative.”
In an earlier phase of the research work, in February 2008, a test Airbus A380 flew from Filton in the United Kingdom to Toulouse in France in the first ever use of GTL Jet Fuel to power an airliner.