JAL flight to test camelina-jatropha-algae fuel

By Susanne Retka Schill | January 01, 2009
Web exclusive posted Dec. 17, 2008 at 10:11 a.m. CST

Japan Airlines will use second-generation feedstocks camelina, jatropha and algae oil for a demonstration jet flight in Japan on Jan. 30. Japan Airlines announced plans Dec. 16 for the one-hour demo flight from Tokyo. A blend of 50 percent biofuel and 50 percent Jet-A (kerosene) fuel will be tested in one of four Pratt & Whitney engines in a JAL-owned Boeing 747-300 aircraft. The biofuel component will be a mixture of three second-generation feedstocks: 84 percent camelina, 16 percent jatropha and less than one percent algae.

According to JAL's announcement, the flight will have several firsts. It will be the first biofuel demonstration by an Asian airline, the first biofuels test using Pratt & Whitney engines, the first to use camelina and the first to use a combination of three sustainable feedstocks.

The camelina used in the JAL demo flight was sourced by Sustainable Oils Inc., a Montana-based developer of camelina-based fuels. India-based Terasol Energy sourced and provided the jatropha oil and the algae oil was provided by California-based Sapphire Energy.

The biofuel for the JAL demo flight was processed by UOP LLC, a Honeywell company, using proprietary hydro-processing technology. The fuel was then blended with Jet-A fuel to create the 50 percent blend. The flight test is the culmination of nearly a year's work, which included laboratory testing by the Boeing Co., UOP and several independent laboratories. Pratt & Whitney, a United Technologies Corp. company, conducted ground-based jet engine performance testing of similar fuels to further establish that the biofuel blend either met or exceeded the performance criteria in place for commercial aviation jet fuel.

"Our feedstock selection was based on firm sustainability criteria designed to avoid the mistakes of preceding biofuel generations," said Boeing Biofuels Program Manager Tim Rahmes. "Working together with Japan Airlines and our other industry partners we've successfully partnered to create a next-generation, plant-derived jet fuel blend that, through extensive testing, has replacement fuel qualities that meet or exceed all of the current jet fuel specification properties."

JAL Environmental Affairs Vice President Yasunori Abe said the flight is designed to demonstrate the fuel's performance. "The highest levels of safety will be adhered to throughout the whole biofuel demonstration flight. Prior to takeoff, we will run the No. 3 engine (middle right) using the fuel blend to confirm everything operates normally. In the air, we will check the engine's performance during normal and non-normal flight operations, which will include quick accelerations and decelerations, and engine shutdown and restart." Once the flight has been completed, data recorded on the aircraft will be analyzed by Pratt & Whitney and Boeing engineers.
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