Fri. Jun 2nd, 2023
Qantas experiments with biofuel mustard seed on LA-Melbourne flight

Monday morning, a Qantas flight took off from Los Angeles International Airport, burning 90 percent regular jet fuel and 10 percent mustard seed oil biofuel.

While that may not seem like much, the biofuel is so efficient that Qantas estimates a seven percent reduction in emissions compared to a comparable 15-hour flight using only traditional jet fuel.

This is important because aviation makes a major contribution to greenhouse gas emissions. Aircraft are responsible for 12 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, and the International Civil Aviation Organization suggests carbon dioxide (CO.)2) emitted from aircraft account for two percent of total global greenhouse gas emissions. Most of those emissions occur during the takeoff or landing of the aircraft.

But the aviation industry can’t switch to batteries as easily as cars (although “easy” is a relative term here, given the specific challenges of the automotive sector). That’s because batteries aren’t quite as efficient per pound as jet fuel, and flying is a mode of transportation that’s very sensitive to fuel weight. However, airlines have gotten inventive, with some using batteries to partially power an airplane and others turning to biofuel to cut emissions.

Sure, biofuel emits CO2 as it is burned. But since growing the fuel means capturing CO . requires2biofuel has a lower total emission tax. In addition, making biofuel avoids the energy-intensive methods required to recover fossil fuels.

Especially the flight of Qantas depends on a plant called Brassica carinata, which has some interesting advantages for its use as a biofuel. The plant, according to Qantas, is a “non-food, industrial type of mustard seed developed by Canada-based agricultural technology company Agrisoma Biosciences.” Carinata is water-saving and can apparently be grown on fallow soil or between crop cycles. In addition, Qantas says that after the seeds have been ground and the oil extracted, the leftover material can be used as protein-rich animal feed.


As part of the partnership with Qantas and Agrisoma, the companies pledge to “work with Australian farmers to grow the country’s first commercial biofuel seed crop by 2020.”

“One hectare of Carinata seed produces 2,000 liters of oil, which yields 400 liters of biofuel, 1,400 liters of renewable diesel and 10% renewable by-products,” claim Qantas and Agrisoma.

For now, this flight from LA to Melbourne seems to be the only one that will use this new biofuel in the near future. Alaska Airlines has also made some test flights using biofuel – in 2016, the company flew a single flight on 20 percent wood waste alcohol and 80 percent jet fuel. Also in 2016, United Airlines announced a deal with AltAir, a Department of Defense-funded biofuel company, in which it would buy enough biofuel for three years to fill its flights between Los Angeles and San Francisco with a mix of 30 percent biofuel and 70 percent biofuel. percent biofuel. percent jet fuel.

For now, cost is a major barrier to using biofuel in aviation (Ars has emailed Qantas for an estimate of the cost of the biofuel mustard seed, and we’ll update when we get a response). But testing the fuel mixture is a step in the right direction.

Correction: We misspelled ‘Qantas’.

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By akfire1

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