Oiled nuts fuel plans for Air New Zealand future
28 May 2008
Air New Zealand could be running its entire domestic fleet on biofuel in the not too distant future according to the company’s chief executive Rob Fyfe.
He says jet fuel has become so expensive and biofuel development is cracking at such a pace it’s now a cost competitive alternative.
The airline is doing commercial biofuel trials in a joint venture with aircraft manufacturer Boeing and engine-maker Rolls-Royce.
It plans a test flight using a blend of biofuel and kerosene in the first half of next year.
Oily nuts from the non-edible jatropha plant and algae are its fuels of choice. They're categorised as second generation fuels because they are not edible crops and don't encroach on crop lands.
Jatropha curcus is sustainable because it is a second generation, non-food crop grown on arid wasteland in tropical climates.
Fyfe said it looked as if Air NZ could achieve the technical criteria for biofuels such as jatropha.
"I see a scenario, in theory, where we could run the entire domestic fleet on 100% biofuel." Boeing has been working closely with the Hawaiian Agricultural Research Centre to research and cultivate jatropha for mass airline commercial use. It is used as vehicle biodiesel fuel in countries the Philippines and India.
Last week jet fuel reached US$172 a barrel and the rising price shows no sign of abating. The escalating cost forced Air NZ to schedule smaller aircraft, holding fewer passengers on its long-haul services such as Auckland to London a potential saving of US$100m a year on that route alone. It has also announced fare increases.
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