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A380 GTL Test Flight Kicks Off Airbus Alternative Fuel Flight Test Program

On Friday, Airbus launched its alternative fuel research program with the 3-hour flight between Filton, UK and Toulouse, France of an A380 fueled by a Gas to Liquids (GTL) blend.

The double-decker A380 is powered by Rolls Royce Trent 900 engines. Shell International Petroleum provided the Shell GTL Jet Fuel. The Airbus tests are running in parallel to the agreement signed in November 2007 with Qatar Airways, Qatar Petroleum, Qatar Fuels, Qatar Science & Technology Park, Rolls Royce and Shell International Petroleum Company to research the potential benefits of synthetic jet fuel processed from gas. (Earlier post.)

This is the first step of a long-term Airbus testing phase to evaluate viable and sustainable alternative fuels for the future. GTL jet fuel could be available at certain locations to make it a practical and viable drop-in alternative  fuel for commercial aviation in the short term, according to the company.

Testing GTL today will support future second generation biofuels such as Fischer-Tropsch biomass-to-liquids (BTL), but which are not presently available in sufficient commercial quantities. Airbus says that it will study viable second generation biofuels when they become available.

GTL synthetic jet fuels are currently being developed to meet international standards required for use in aviation under the auspices of the industry-wide Commercial Alternative Aviation Fuels Initiative (CAAFI) of which Airbus, Rolls-Royce and Shell are all members.

The Commercial Aviation Alternative Fuels Initiative (CAAFI) is an aviation industry consortium formed to coordinate the development and commercialisation of drop-in alternative fuels.  Under the auspices of the Federal Aviation Administration, the Certification and Qualification panel of CAAFI has outlined a roadmap for alternative fuels approvals including synthetic fuels derived from the Fisher-Tropsch process.

This roadmap supports the approval of a 50/50 semi-synthetic blend of Jet A /A1 according to the ASTM D 1655 fuel/additive approval protocol by late 2008 and a 100% fuel specification by the end of the decade.

Virgin Atlantic is also planning an alternative fuel test—this one with a biofuel—in one of its Boeing 747s for a London to Amsterdam flight this month.



John Baldwin

GTL is a nightmare in CO2 terms as it wastes so much energy in making it. Don't go there!!!


Yes it is a nightmare, but it requires no worries when using the fuel so a company can pretend they are researching alternative fuel uses while using it. If airbus were trying out bio fuels that would be a different matter. Then they would have to worry about compatibility and other problems. Thus GTL is the safe, easy way to pretend you are doing something.

Jim G.

In addition to wasting energy producing it, if it's from natural gas, it's both a fossil fuel (not renewable), and not carbon neutral (so it does nothing about global warming).

Unless they are serious about sourcing second generation biofuels it does look like greenwashing. Funny because the A380 must use immense volumes of fuel.


In this test, they were not evaluating the production of biofuel, but only if GTL fuel could work in this plane.
Since there are no bio-GTL facilities for the moment, they need to use the existing natural gas-derived GTL.
Once it is proven that it works fine in their engines, we can still switch to biomass-derived GTL, since it is chemically the same.
If biomass is transformed to GTL, it will be much greener. When additional (nuclear or solar - derived) hydrogen is added to the process and the heat is provided by another source (nuclear, solar), the transformation of biomass to GTL can be with a 100% efficiency (biomass-carbon to fuel-carbon). Since any carbon-source can be used in this process, there will be much more bio-carbon available than we need.


You should watch the video! http://www.airbus.com/store/photolibrary/AIRCRAFT/AIRBUS/A380/video/att00011388/media_object_file_lowres_Fuel_Internet_Airbus.swf
But you better hurry! Airbus might remove this video for it is just for their press release members! Watch it!

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