Thursday, 25 April 2013 16:44

Chinese airline to start biofuel-powered commerical flights

Move comes after China Eastern Airlines conducts successful trial of Sinopac-produced fuel made from palm oil and recycled cooking oil

China Eastern Airlines has said it plans to introduce biofuel-powered commercial flights, after yesterday completing its first successful trial of green aviation fuel.

An Airbus A320 landed at Shanghai Hongqiao International Airport yesterday morning after completing an 85-minute flight using a biofuel made from a blend of palm oil and recycled cooking oil produced by Sinopec.

State media reported that Captain Liu Zhimin, who piloted Wednesday's flight, performed several extreme manoeuvres but found no significant difference between the biofuel and standard aviation fuel.

China Daily also said the company now plans to introduce biofuel to commercial flights, although the timetable for the roll-out remains unclear.

"We have developed two kinds of biofuel, palm oil and waste cooking oil, and the fuel we used during this flight was palm oil," Huang Zhongwen, deputy director of publicity for Sinopec Zhenhai Refining and Chemical Co, told China Daily.

"We have the capability of turning waste cooking oil into jet fuel, although the cost will be higher than producing ordinary fuel."

The trial by China Eastern Airlines, the country's second largest carrier by passenger numbers, follows a 2011 Air China demonstration of fuel produced from domestically grown energy crop jatropha.

Several other major carriers, including KLM, Lufthansa, BA and United, have also conducted experiments with greener fuels from various feedstocks to counter rising oil prices and tackle the sector's emissions.

And earlier this month, the White House extended a programme to support the production of one billion gallons (3.8 billion litres) of aviation biofuels by 2018.

Fuels made from products such as cooking oil, waste or algae are considered more sustainable as they do not compete with food production, although question marks remain over palm oil, which in some cases has been linked to rainforest destruction.

Experts maintain that if aviation biofuels are to prove environmentally sustainable they will ultimately need to be produced from feedstocks that have a limited impact on land and water use.

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