Qatar Airways makes world’s first gas-to-liquid-fuelled revenue flight

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Qatar Airways has achieved a world first today by operating an Airbus A340-600 on a revenue flight powered by gas-to-liquid (GTL) kerosene.

The A340-600 took off today on the synthetic fuel demonstration flight from London Gatwick, operating the airline's regular QR076 service to Doha with a full load of passengers.

The A340 substituted for the regular A330 on the 6h flight, with all four of its Rolls-Royce Trent 500 engines to be powered by a 50/50 blend of GTL and Jet A1 kerosene. On board the milestone flight was Qatar Airways chief executive, Akbar Al Baker and a small group of media that included Flightglobal. The remainder of the aircraft was occupied by fare-paying passengers who had been advised in advance about the nature of the flight.

qatar airways a340-600 airbus
 © Qatar Airways

The demonstration follows a two-year intensive study into synthetic fuel technology, which was announced at the Dubai air show in November 2007 by a team comprising Qatar Airways, Qatar Petroleum, Shell, Airbus, R-R, Qatar Science & Technology Park and Woqod (Qatar Fuel Company).

The Gatwick-Doha flight is the second demonstration of the synthetic fuel. Last year Airbus operated an A380 on a 3h flight between Bristol and Toulouse with one of its four Trent engines fuelled by a 40% blend of GTL kerosene provided by Shell.

Training and research has been undertaken within the Qatar Science and Technology Park. The country is set to be the market leader in the production of GTL, with Qatar Petroleum and Shell having created a multi-billion dollar integrated GTL "Pearl" plant. When this comes fully on line by 2011 GTL will be available in large volumes.

Approval for the 50% blend was received in September, and the ultimate goal is to achieve approval for 100% blend of GTL with other synthetic fuels.

GTL provides environmental benefits as it is clean burning - it produces fewer particulates, thereby reducing sulphur and nitrate emissions - and provides up to 5% higher energy density per weight. Qatar Airways ultimately aims to use the fuel for all its regular operations.