Fuelling the news – biofuels hit the headlines

Try as I might to track developments in alternative jet fuels, there is a bewildering array of initiatives under way and it can be hard to separate the hydrocarbons from the hogwash. But if Boeing is involved, you have to assume there is something more than hype in the tank.

Boeing, Air New Zealand and Rolls-Royce have signed a memorandum of understanding to conduct a biofuel demonstration flight using a 747-400 in the second half of 2008. This will follow the Boeing/Virgin Atlantic/General Electric biofuel flight trial early next year, also on a 747-400. Both involve running just one of the aircraft’s four engines on a biofuel blend.

biofuel.jpg Which biofuel will be tested has not been announced in either case. GE says selection of a fuel for the Virgin trial is imminent, while Boeing says it is still working to identify suitable biofuels available in sufficient quantities for the Air NZ trial.

Air NZ’s involvement is interesting because several reports have linked both trials with New Zealand company Aquaflow Bionomics, which produces biofuel from pond scum – sorry, algae. But there are lots of other “potential” bio-jet fuels out there, so it will be interesting to see which are picked by Boeing, GE and R-R.

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