One of the most difficult areas for the development of green transportation so far has to be the aviation industry. Some examples of success do exist in that area when you consider that the United States Navy has had some success when it comes to flying a biofuel powered test fighter and a partially biofuel powered passenger airliner was flown back in 2008 by Virgin Atlantic. Yet, while it is true that there are plenty of organizations working on developing alternative fuels for aircraft, the fact remains that there are no major biofuel power aircraft currently operating on any regular schedule. Lufthansa is looking to change that.
Deutsche Lufthansa AG, a German based airline company that boasts the largest passenger volume of all European airline companies, has announced that in 2011 they will begin flying a biofuel powered aircraft on a regular schedule. The flight, which is expected to become available sometime in April, is to be a local flight that goes in between Hamburg and Frankfurt, Germany and is going to serve as Germany and Lufthansa’s guinea pig for biofuels in the airline industry. What both of the parties are hoping to determine is just what kind of effect biofuels will have on an aircraft’s engine and on the environment as a whole after extended periods of regular flight. The project is expected to cost both parties combined roughly $11.2 million. So far, it is believed that most of the figure is dedicated to the acquisition of biofuel for use on board the aircraft due to the higher price tag affixed to biofuels.
The biofuel powered aircraft in question is going to be a modified version of the Airbus A321. The A321 is the largest of what Airbus calls the A320 family and has to ability to accommodate between 185 and 220 passengers depending on the seat configuration on board the aircraft. While the A321 in question will only be used for local flights, the A321 generally has a range of roughly of 3,450 miles; though the range while powered by biofuel could change drastically. Since the A321 has been modified to take advantage of biofuel and biofuel mixtures, Lufthansa has decided to utilize a blend of biofuels and kerosene. It is expected to reduce the overall carbon emissions of an aircraft that size and on that schedule by roughly eighty percent.
The particular biofuel that Lufthansa has decided to use in the A321’s engines is imported biofuel from a Finnish oil refining company by the name of Neste Oil. The particular oil in question is the NExBTL renewable jet fuel that Neste Oil has designed as a part of their plan to contribute to the European Union’s goal to make a majority of their airline companies carbon emissions free by 2020.
With any luck, Lufthansa’s decision to begin running a regularly scheduled biofuel powered flight will offer a great deal of information based on how biofuels effect aviation engine technology. If the outcome proves favorable, it would seem likely that the door would then be open to using biofuels in further flights down the road.
Article by Richard Cooke, appearing courtesy Justmeans.