Alaska eyes more markets for biofuel

Washington DC
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Alaska Airlines is looking to expand its partnerships with biofuel providers as it expands supplies to some of its secondary markets, says Jay Long, the Seattle-based airline's director of fuel administration.

The carrier is hoping to bring biofuels to airports where traditional fuel is under-supplied today, he says while speaking at the Commercial Aviation Alternative Fuels Initiative general meeting in Washington DC on 29 January.

Alaska is eyeing bringing the biofuels to places like Eastern Washington state, Montana and Idaho, says Long.

“We're looking for right-sized opportunities that fit well within that region,” he says.

Alaska has already started the process of procuring biofuels, signing an agreement in July 2013 with Hawai'i BioEnergy to purchase 37.9 million litres (10 million gallons) of fuel per year. That fuel would become available in 2018 at the earliest.

The carrier has faced problems with procuring enough fuel for its flights to Lihue Airport on the Hawaiian island of Kauai, especially when flights encounter strong winds, says Long.

“We've almost run that airport dry several times,” he says.

Because the airport only has room for 227,124 litres of fuel—enough to power about 10 flights with Alaska's Boeing 737 aircraft—barges frequently have to travel back and forth from the airport to bring more fuel in. This is less than half the amount that Alaska needs to use each day to power its flights from the island to Portland and Seattle.

“Now we have a local supply that's completely separate from the barge traffic,” says Long, speaking of its plan to bring biofuels to the airport.

Alaska recently issued its first fuel tender to a biofuel company and is on the lookout for more biofuel suppliers, says Long.