Lufthansa cites favourable pricing as challenge in biofuel development

Washington DC
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German carrier Lufthansa believes achieving attractive pricing for aviation biofuels remains one of the three challenges in the industry using the alternative fuels on a wide scale.

Favourable pricing joins attaining sustainable feedstock and enlarging production in ensuring biofuels are a viable alternative, said Lufthansa vice-president of aviation biofuel Joachim Buse.

Buse was speaking in Washington, DC a day after Lufthansa on 12 January completed the first transatlantic flight using an aircraft partially powered by biofuels. Lufthansa operated a Boeing 747-400 with two of its four engines powered on a 50:50 blend of biofuel and traditional kerosene.

The transatlantic flight concluded a six month biofuel trial Lufthansa conducted on four daily roundtrips from Hamburg to Frankfurt. One of the International Aero Engines V2500s on the Airbus A321 Lufthansa operated the flights on burned a 50:50 blend of ordinary kerosene and synthetic fuel derived from jatropha, camelina and animal fat.

Dubbed the burnFair project, Lufthansa said a biofuel quantity of 800t was used for the trials, which included the transatlantic flight.

Buse explained the price paid for the biofuel used in the trials was two-and-a-half times the price of conventional fuel. The total cost of the project was €6.6 million ($8.4 million), with the German government contributing €2.5 million to the effort.

"From a commercial standpoint you would always choose the cheaper alternative," said Buse.

Factoring in CO2 credits, he explained that if the sum for conventional jetfuel and costs of the credits is cheaper than the price of biofuel, "than you would stay with conventional fuel".

But if achieved the same price level using biofuel, "then of course you would take the more environmentally friendly alternative", said Buse.

Lufthansa remains encouraged by the results of the biofuel trials despite the challenges that remain to full-scale alternative aviation fuel development.

The carrier estimates on the transatlantic flight it achieved CO2 savings of up to 38t, corresponding to the CO2 emissions of six scheduled flights between Frankfurt and Berlin.

Lufthansa estimated 1% fuel burn improvement on the starboard engine of the A321 used in the trials, due to the higher energy content of the hydrotreated renewable jet (HRJ) fuels used in the tests.