Canada announces aircraft biofuel test programme

Aircraft manufacturer Bombardier is to take part in a Canadian test programme for aviation biofuels.

A Bombardier Q400 aircraft equipped with standard Pratt & Whitney Canada PW150A engines will be flown using fuel from an oilseed crop as part of the programme. A six-partner consortium, led by Saskatchewan-based Targeted Growth Canada (TGC), expects to demonstrate the emerging biofuel produced from camelina in a Porter Airlines Q400 turboprop by early 2012.

Sustainable Oils and Honeywell’s UOP will participate in the camelina biofuel test programme on the Q400 aircraft along with TGC, Bombardier Aerospace, Porter Airlines and Pratt & Whitney Canada. TGC will work on crop optimisation and growth, Sustainable Oils will pre-refine the camelina oil and Honeywell’s UOP will produce the hydro-treated renewable jet (HRJ) biofuel from the oils provided.

“There’s no doubt that biotechnology will play a key role in developing long-term, sustainable and low-carbon fuel sources,” said Tom Todaro, President, TGC. “But we can’t do it alone. The close collaboration with the other key players in the value chain, including Bombardier Aerospace, Porter Airlines Inc. and Pratt & Whitney Canada, along with funding from SDTC and Green Aviation Research & Development Network (GARDN) will help us accelerate the commercial availability and use of next generation biofuels.”

Recognised for its potential as a biofuel and bio-lubricant, camelina is a member of the same plant family as the cabbage and cauliflower. The programme objective is to optimise production and establish performance standards for refined camelina oil as a drop-in replacement for jet fuel that fits with the current refining and distribution infrastructure and with existing engines.

Benefits claimed for camelina HRJ over traditional petroleum fuel include greenhouse gas emissions reduced by up to 80 per cent, reduced sulphur dioxide (SO2) and no competition with food production because it can be grown in rotation with wheat and on marginal land. It enables farmers to grow a low-cost input crop with two end user markets – the oil for fuel and the meal for livestock and dairy industries.

The 70- to 80-seat Q400 NextGen aircraft is optimised for short-haul operations and is in service with 30 operators worldwide.

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