Air New Zealand is to operate a demonstration flight from Auckland on 3 December using a Boeing 747-400 with one of its four Rolls-Royce RB211 engines powered in part by fuel that is 50% standard Jet A and 50% synthetic paraffinic kerosene derived from the jatropha plant and refined by Honeywell subsidiary UOP.

During processing, hydrogen was added to remove oxygen from the biomass, resulting in a jet fuel that can be used as a petroleum replacement for commercial aviation.

Rolls-Royce's technical team tested the fuel for compatibility with jet engine components and to validate the fuel meets performance criteria for use in the aviation industry.

Air New Zealand Boeing 747
 © Colin Parker/

Jatropha-based biofuel was shown to have a freeze point significantly below -53°F (-47°C), meaning the fuel can handle colder temperatures, according to Darrin Morgan, Boeing's director of business analysis for environmental strategy.

No freezing point has been specified, but the fuel's flash point is 100°F (38°C).

Energy density was 4% more for the jatropha-based biofuel than petroleum, meaning the jatropha blend has 4% more range, or in a given range requires 4% less fuel, Morgan says.

Jatropha could help Air New Zealand achieve its goal of meeting at least 10% of its annual fuel needs with biofuels by 2013.

Source: Flight International