Today Continental Airlines demonstrated the first ever biofuel flight for a commercial aircraft in North America.
The plane in question was a 737-800 with CFM International CFM56-7B engines. The goal of the flight was not just to demonstrate that such a flight was possible but to record and analyse important data the unique flight generated.
“This demonstration flight represents another step in Continental’s ongoing commitment to fuel efficiency and environmental responsibility,” said Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Larry Kellner. “The technical knowledge we gain today will contribute to a wider understanding of the future for transportation fuels.”
However, this is not a true biofuel flight – not if you were hoping that the plane would be running soley on biofuel. In fact, one of the two engines on the plane will use %100 traditional fuel. The second engine will use %50 biofuel and %50 traditional fuel.
Don’t be disheartened by that relatively low percentage of biofuel as Continental Airlines engineers have calculated that this change alone will result in a significant decrease in carbon emissions.
Furthermore this strain of biofuel has been designed so that acts as a ‘drop-in’ fuel. This means that neither the aircraft nor the engines need any special modification to use the biofuel. Many aircraft around the world could, in theory, be able to use the fuel.
Biofuels have become controversial since they are seen as taking away valuable food materials or even adding to deforestation. Many people argue that it is better to use food to feed the poor rather than convert it into biofuel to allow the rich to travel.
The biofuel in the Continental Airlines flight, however, is a second generation biofuel which avoids these problems. Second generation biofuels are often made from algae or jatropha plants taken from sustainable and managed specialist farms.
A company called Sapphire Energy was responsible for providing the improved fuel to Continental.
“The simple combination of sunlight, CO2 and algae to produce a carbon-neutral, renewable fuel source has the potential to profoundly change the petrochemical landscape forever,” said Jason Pyle, Sapphire Energy CEO. “Today’s flight puts us one step closer to moving away from fossil fuels and energy dependency, and with no impact on the transportation infrastructure, food sources or the environment.”
In Pure Spirit
Do you this today’s demonstration flight be Continental Airlines is a step in the right direction?
Is this a real effort to find an environmentally friendly sustainable fuel? Or is this just a publicity stunt?