Kiwis Make First Jatropha Biodiesel Flight

John Davis

Over the last month, I’ve been telling you how some airlines have been racing to become the first to use biodiesel in a commercial flight… whether it was camelina-based biodiesel from Montana or algae-based biodiesel. Both of those flights are scheduled for January, but it looks like a jatropha-based biodiesel flight will beat them to the punch.

airnewzealandThis story from the gas2.0 blog says Air New Zealand has become the first airline to test a 50/50 blend of the green fuel in a Boeing 747-400 passenger jet:

The flight lasted two hours and ran one of the plane’s Rolls-Royce engines on the jatropha biodiesel blend. Air New Zealand has previously stated that they want to become the world’s most sustainable airline and hopes that by 2013, 10% of its flights will be powered by biofuel blends such as the jatropha biodiesel blend used in this test flight.

Air New Zealand said the the jatropha used to make the fuel came from South Eastern Africa (Malawi, Mozambique and Tanzania) and India. They also claim that the oil was produced from Jatropha seeds grown on “environmentally sustainable farms.”

As a second generation biofuel, jatropha is grown on land that doesn’t compete with food. Jatropha requires almost no care and very little water. Another major benefit of jatropha is that, due to its ability to take hold in harsh wastelands, it can be used to help stop erosion in these areas and reclaim them for agricultural production.

The only drawback to the story is that Air New Zealand expects that it will take four years of development to make sure there is enough jatropha biodiesel for its 10-percent-of-its-flights goal.