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Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Latest aviation biofuel PR stunt

The search for renewable sources for aviation fuel continues. First it was coconut and babassu nut oil for a Virgin Atlantic 747, and this week it was jatropha oil on an Air New Zealand flight Tuesday.

This time, the biofuel was 50% of the mix (with jet fuel), unlike the 20% in the Virgin stunt. The jatropha crop is also promising because it can be grown places that other crops cannot, particularly sunny arid areas like the African continent, with 5 million hectares predicted to be planted by 2010, and acrages growing by 1-2 million hectares every year. As such, it seems more scalable than the earlier test.

However, the US alone uses about 20 billion gallons of jet fuel a year (nearly 60 million gallons a day). It may be that only algae-based biofuels will scale up well enough to have a meaningful impact on US consumption of jet fuel.

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