Qantas made the world’s first dedicated biofuel flight between the United States and Australia, Qantas QF96 from Los Angeles to Melbourne (a Boeing Dreamliner 787-9), over the weekend. The 15-hour trans-Pacific flight operated with approximately 24,000 kg of 10% biofuel blend, saving 18,000 kg in carbon emissions.
Fuel for the flight was produced from Carinata seeds by AltAir Paramount LLC using Honeywell UOP’s Renewable Jet Fuel process technology, which converts non-edible animal fats and oils into renewable fuels. Carinata seeds—a non-edible industrial mustard seed—are pressed and yield half their weight in oils that are then refined into jet fuel.
The seeds were developed by developed by Canadian-based agricultural-technology company, Agrisoma Biosciences (Agrisoma). Qantas established a partnership with Agrisoma to promote Carinata as a crop for Australian farmers, specifically as a renewable feedstock for making commercial aviation biofuel. The first such commercial seed crop is expected to harvest in 2020.
AltAir, which converted the Carinata oil into jet fuel, operates a commercial-scale renewable jet fuel plant at the AltAir Paramount refinery in Paramount, Calif. The plant produces 35 million gallons per year of renewable fuels, including Honeywell Green Jet Fuel, using Honeywell’s UOP Renewable Jet Fuel process, which produces fuels that are chemically identical to petroleum-based fuels.
Across its lifecycle, using Carinata-derived biofuel can reduce carbon emissions by eighty percent compared to traditional jet fuel. The ten percent biofuel blend used on the flight will therefore see a seven percent reduction in emissions on this route compared to normal operations.
Carinata requires no specialized production or processing techniques. It is water-efficient and The University of Queensland field trials in Gatton, Queensland, and in Bordertown, South Australia, have demonstrated it should do very well in the Australian climate.
It is sown in either fallow areas where food crops fail or in between regular crop cycles, known as “cover cropping”. Rotational or break-crops can improve soil quality, reduce erosion for food crops and provide farmers with additional income. Agrisoma CEO, Steve Fabijanski, said biofuel produced from Carinata provides wide ranging benefits.
Qantas’ first trans-Pacific biofuel flight was made possible with the support of AltAir Fuels and World Fuel Services.
In 2012 Qantas and Jetstar operated Australia’s first biofuel trial flights. Qantas’ A330 Sydney-Adelaide return service and Jetstar’s A320 Melbourne-Hobart return service were both powered with biofuel derived from used cooking oil (split with 50:50 conventional jet fuel) certified for use in commercial aviation.
One hectare of Carinata seed yields 2,000 liters of oil, which produces 400 liters of biofuel, 1,400 liters of renewable diesel and 10% renewable by-products.