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Qatar Airways Becomes First to Operate Commercial Flight on GTL Jet Fuel Blend

12 October 2009

Qatar Airways became the first airline to operate a commercial flight on a 50:50 blend with synthetic GTL Jet Fuel. The natural gas derived synthetic kerosene for the six-hour flight from London to Doha came from Shell’s GTL plant in Bintulu, Malaysia.

In September, ASTM International released a new specification that fully and unconditionally approved the use of Gas-to-Liquids Kerosene blends for powering commercial aircraft. (Earlier post.)

GTL Jet Fuel can be used in the 50:50 blend with conventional jet fuel without any modifications to existing aircraft and engines. The synthetic fuel is virtually free of sulfur and aromatics; the environmental benefits of this are being quantified and are likely to include improved air quality around airports, according to Qatar Airways.

GTL Jet Fuel has higher energy content by weight compared to conventional jet fuel. It also offers improved thermal stability, meaning engines would be able to run hotter. Both of these characteristics may lead to potential fuel economy and improved payload/range performance which could result in a limited CO2 benefit for specific aircraft/route combinations. This is being studied, the carrier notes.

In December 2008, Qatar Airways, Qatar Petroleum, Qatar Fuel Company (WOQOD), Airbus, Rolls-Royce plc, Shell International Petroleum Company Limited and the Qatar Science and Technology Park announced an agreement to research the potential benefits of Gas-to-Liquid (GTL) Synthetic Jet Fuel in aviation engines. (Earlier post.)

Shell and Qatar Petroleum are currently building the massive integrated Pearl GTL complex. GTL kerosene is an important part of Pearl GTL’s product slate, and being offered to markets as a natural gas derived synthetic component in jet fuel.

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Comments

This is good news. CTL, GTL, BTL and other methods can reduce oil consumption and clean up the environment. Air travel will continue to expand, as long as they find these alternative fuels.

@SJC:

Converting coal to liquid fuel is energy/CO2 intensive. A recent Scientific American article shows CTL diesel with over twice the carbon footprint of petro diesel, for instance.

Coal may be a 'cheap', domestic resource, but it's pretty much the worst of all worlds: local environmental degradation from strip mining, worst GHG emissions of all fossil fuels. Coal is carbon sequestered by mother nature. For all our sakes, we should leave it in the ground.

It's a sunny region over there. They could easily produce vast amounts of (algae or mangrove) biomass and/or (solar) hydrogen to produce methane and GTL.

I hope this is only a first step.

I do not mind CTL, if something is done with the carbon. If they want to add more hydrogen from solar thermal electric and make more fuel, so be it. If they want to sequester it in old natural gas wells or use it to get more oil out of wells, so be it.

The methods that were used to get coal under Bush were and are criminal. Blowing mountains apart because that is the cheaper easier way to get coal and then dump the remains into river beds is disgusting. I will make no apologizes for those reckless and damaging methods.

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