Feeds

'First algae-fuelled airliner flight' takes off tomorrow

Scum-burning 737 to debut in Texas

Application security programs and practises

US airline Continental says it will carry out "the first biofuel flight by a commercial carrier using algae as a fuel source" tomorrow. Previous airliner biofuel trials have used controversial "first-generation" feedstocks, seen as contributing to world hunger and deforestation, apart from a recent New Zealand test involving jatropha nuts.

Continental says the flight will occur at Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston, Texas, at 1115 AM local time tomorrow. The aircraft in question will be a Boeing 737-800 equipped with CFM International CFM56-7B engines, and the biofuel mix used will be sourced from feedstocks including jatropha and algae.

Continental say that this means the test will draw only on "sustainable, second-generation fuel sources that do not impact food crops or water resources, and do not contribute to deforestation". In addition to airline execs, the event will be attended by Billy Glover, Boeing's managing director in charge of environmental strategy.

First-generation biofuels made from feedstocks such as corn or palm oil have come in for sustained criticism lately. It has been suggested that these fuels displace food production from farmland, driving up food prices and so causing hardship among the poor. The resulting desire for more farmland is also seen as contributing to deforestation.

Convincing analysis has also suggested that developed nations - or those wishing to become developed one day - will simply never have enough arable land to fuel any significant proportion of their transport using crop fuels.

This has led to the push for "second-generation" biofuels, ones not requiring the use of good farmland for production. Thus far the main candidate here has been oil from the jatropha nut, which might perhaps be cultivated in unused arid deserts not suitable for food production. A recent test by Air New Zealand has shown that jumbo jets will run on a 50-50 jatropha and normal jetfuel mix, but as yet there are not well-established large scale sources of the oily nuts and many are sceptical regarding the viability of the idea.

The other headliner gen-2.0 biofuel feedstock is algae, which might be grown in large amounts on water surfaces - perhaps even on saltwater, avoiding the need to exploit possibly overstressed freshwater resources. To many in the avaiation industry of recent times, algae has been something of a holy grail - offering a way to avoid the high fuel prices seen last year and a possible get-out from tough carbon pricing regimes planned by such bodies as the European Union. Biofuel is one of the few technically feasible low-carbon avenues open to aviation: such options as hydrogen fuel and electric power would be hugely harder to use on aircraft than they are to implement in road vehicles.

All of which means that tomorrow's test by Continental should generate a good deal of interest - although the firm hasn't yet offered details of its algae feedstock, nor of how much of the fuel it provides. It is understood that the biofuel is provided by Honeywell subsidiary UOP, which is working on second-generation biojetfuel as part of the Airbus Initiative, and which has a US military contract aimed at renewable, securely sourced JP-8. ®

Build a business case: developing custom apps

More from The Register

next story
Asteroid's DINO KILLING SPREE just bad luck – boffins
Sauricide WASN'T inevitable, reckon scientists
BEST BATTERY EVER: All lithium, all the time, plus a dash of carbon nano-stuff
We have found the Holy Grail (of batteries) - boffins
The Sun took a day off last week and made NO sunspots
Someone needs to get that lazy star cooking again before things get cold around here
Boffins discuss AI space program at hush-hush IARPA confab
IBM, MIT, plenty of others invited to fill Uncle Sam's spy toolchest, but where's Google?
Famous 'Dish' radio telescope to be emptied in budget crisis: CSIRO
Radio astronomy suffering to protect Square Kilometre Array
Bad back? Show some spine and stop popping paracetamol
Study finds common pain-killer doesn't reduce pain or shorten recovery
Forty-five years ago: FOOTPRINTS FOUND ON MOON
NASA won't be back any time soon, sadly
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
Application security programs and practises
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
How modern custom applications can spur business growth
Learn how to create, deploy and manage custom applications without consuming or expanding the need for scarce, expensive IT resources.
Securing Web Applications Made Simple and Scalable
Learn how automated security testing can provide a simple and scalable way to protect your web applications.