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World’s First Transatlantic Flight… on Biofuels [Video]

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.


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This past weekend, the Paris Air Show witnessed two historic firsts: the first transatlantic flight on biofuels, closely followed by the second, which involved a much larger jet (although a smaller percentage of bio–jet fuel).  Honeywell’s corporate Gulfstream G450 sped from North America to Europe burning a 50–50 blend of kerosene derived from fossil algae and bio-jet refined from camelina oil, courtesy of Honeywell-owned refinery technology company UOP.

The blended fuel boasts all the same characteristics as traditional jet fuel, except that it burns a little more frugally. The bio-jet has to be blended, however, lest it leak out of conventional engines (biofuel lacks the aromatic hydrocarbons that help swell shut valves and seals in an aircraft engine). On the upside, the blended mix cuts down on the pungent aroma of jet fuel for the ground crew.

Camelina-derived
UOP bio-jet also contributed 15 percent of the fuel for the first Boeing 747 to make the transatlantic flight partially powered by non-fossil plant oil. Here it is coming in for its landing in Paris:

Neither plane required changes to any of its engines to burn the bio-jet, and more than 700,000 gallons of the greener jet fuel have been produced to date, for customers such as the U.S. Navy and U.S. Air Force. The next hurdle is simply certifying that the fuel—known in the industry as synthetic paraffinated kerosene—can be used commercially, and then bringing down the cost (it remains more expensive than fossil jet fuel). Already, ASTM has issued a provisional standard. And that means bio-jet may not be a matter of demonstration flights for much longer.

Image: Courtesy of Honeywell





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