Australia is looking at the possibility of producing its own biofuel for aviation following the country’s first flight on 13 April using a fuel type derived from recycled cooking oil.
National airline Qantas operated the return flight between Sydney and Adelaide using an Airbus A330 with one engine powered by a 50:50 blend of biofuel and standard jet fuel supplied by Dutch firm SkyNRG.
Ahead of the flight the airline announced that it will conduct a feasibility study, with financial backing from the Government, into the potential for an Australian sustainable aviation fuel industry. Shell will provide technical support to the study.
Qantas CEO Alan Joyce said the project would explore the conditions needed to produce aviation biofuel commercially at a competitive price from sustainable sources within Australia. “Alternatives to conventional jet fuel are vital to the aviation industry meeting ambitious targets for carbon-neutral growth and emissions reduction,” he said. “Australia has the skills, resources and infrastructure to take a lead in this emerging sector. But there are also significant challenges – which is why we need to establish a clear plan.”
Australian research organisation CSIRO has estimated that biofuel production could generate up to 12,000 jobs over the next 20 years.
Qantas-owned budget airline Jetstar plans to run flights from Melbourne to Hobart and back on 19 April using the same SkyNRG fuel blend.
Airlines from a number of countries have demonstrated the technical feasibility of using biofuel blends to reduce meet regulatory requirements for cutting their carbon footprint, but so far such fuels have only been available in modest quantities at high prices.
Last month three of the world’s major aircraft manufacturers - Airbus, Boeing and Embraer - signed an agreement to work together on the development of drop-in, affordable aviation biofuels.
“There are times to compete and there are times to cooperate,” said Boeing Commercial Airplanes CEO Jim Albaugh. “Two of the biggest threats to our industry are the price of oil and the impact of commercial air travel on our environment. By working together on sustainable biofuels, we can accelerate their availability and reduce our industry's impacts on the planet we share.”