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Air New Zealand Tests Biofuel

The New Zealand airline takes off with sustainable Jatropha biofuel

By Rebecca Hare
Air New Zealand's Boeing 747 Aircraft
An Air New Zealand Boeing 747 Aircraft

With the world looking for new ways to produce energy, Air New Zealand is doing its part to ensure that future generations have a sustainable way to fly the friendly skies. The New Zealand-based airline partnered with aviation giants Boeing, Rolls-Royce, and UOP to identify three "non-negotiable" criteria for developing environmentally sustainable fuel. The source must not compete with land used for food crops, must operate as well as traditional jet fuel and must be cost-efficient. With all of these considerations in mind, Air New Zealand has promoted a native plant fuel called Jatropha, whose seeds can produce 30-40 percent of its mass in oil.

At the end of 2008, a single engine of an Air New Zealand Boeing 747-400 aircraft was filled with a 50/50 blend of Jatropha and Jet A1 fuel and a number of tests were run on a two-hour flight over Northern Auckland, sans passengers. The test flight was completed successfully and fuel made with Jatropha seeds has been shown to meet all three of the requirements for new sustainable fuel. Although this type of fuel won’t be used on any commercial flights anytime soon, this ground-breaking technology is one of the first initiatives towards creating a sustainable future in aviation.

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(Updated: 07/08/09 KR)

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