Print 15 comment(s) - last by Omega215D.. on Jul 22 at 11:37 AM

Lufthansa has first commercial biofuel flight

Major European airliner Lufthansa has taken its biofuel efforts to the next level after launching a six-month 50/50 fuel-biofuel mix test in European flights. 

The new "hydrotreated" jet fuel is based from wood chips and inedible plants, such as different types of grass.  The use of food-based crops negatively leads to issues with rising food costs that plague U.S. and European consumers.    

The new blend of regular jet fuel and biosynthetic food is now used by the airline company's Airbus A321 aircraft.  Beginning last week, flights between Hamburg and Frankfurt had a 50/50 mix in one engine with the other engine running on regular jet fuel.  Passengers are unable to notice any difference how the aircraft flies.

Government support has increased demand for ethanol, so corn crops have been in high demand since 2005.  

Lufthansa is interested in studying long-term engine health as they try to make a transition from regular jet fuel to biofuels.

Although Lufthansa believes this new biofuel fuel blend will drastically reduce CO2 emissions, some German environmental groups criticized the move.  According to one German environmental group, they believe Lufthansa and other airliners traveling such short distances still is bad for the environment -- and try to promote train travel as a more eco-friendly mode of transportation.

Air France conducted a commercial biofuel flight in June, with the Boeing 737-800 using recycled cooking oil instead of jet fuel.  Airliners are anxious to avoid investing in jet fuel that greatly fluctuates in cost, and a more eco-friendly option is very welcome.

Biofuels remain a major interest by the government and private sector, especially among airlines trying to become more eco-friendly and reduce costs.  Airline biofuels consist of materials ranging from grass and algae to organic waste that is processed into biofuel that can be used for transportation and vehicles.

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Interim Solution
By Paj on 7/21/2011 8:49:11 AM , Rating: 2
Makes sense - if they can get this off the ground (pun most definitely intended), then they could be a pioneer in this field. Removing dependence on fossil fuels would be a major boost for airlines, at least until some boffin manages to develop an electrically powered engine.

RE: Interim Solution
By quiksilvr on 7/21/2011 8:56:58 AM , Rating: 2
I think for short flights electric propeller planes make sense (DC to New York, LA to Phoenix, etc) and for longer flights these biofuels make sense.

I see it totally within the realm of possible to make a 500 mile range propeller plane that can seat 200 people + luggage. The only problem now is that we are relying on archaic weather prediction software for flights. It's in development for more advances but, as with anything, takes time.

RE: Interim Solution
By corduroygt on 7/21/2011 9:24:43 AM , Rating: 3
Electric NEVER makes sense for anything that's bigger than a model airplane. Batteries are heavy and aircraft are designed to be as light as possible.

RE: Interim Solution
By Samus on 7/21/2011 9:51:00 AM , Rating: 3
The solar plane concepts we've seen are in the right direction, but they are small and slow. I agree with you that it'll be some time before we have compact electric motors that generate as much thrust as a turbine engine in a lightweight avionic package.

RE: Interim Solution
By spread on 7/21/2011 12:48:10 PM , Rating: 2
What about a blimp?

RE: Interim Solution
By Omega215D on 7/22/2011 11:37:01 AM , Rating: 2
Like living in Fringe's alternate universe full of zeppelins using vector thrust engines

RE: Interim Solution
By 91TTZ on 7/21/2011 3:47:50 PM , Rating: 2
It's not about the electric motors. They're plenty powerful. The real problem is the energy storage. Batteries are too heavy to be practical.

For instance, the batteries in electric cars which weigh hundreds of pounds only store the equivalent energy of a few gallons of gas.

RE: Interim Solution
By soydios on 7/21/2011 12:54:11 PM , Rating: 2
Whoever down-rated this guy needs to look up what the energy densities are for batteries and petroleum fuels. He's right, electric isn't widely practical because of the heavy batteries.

RE: Interim Solution
By Solandri on 7/21/2011 2:47:40 PM , Rating: 2
For those who don't want to look it up, the 300 kg Li-ion battery pack in the Nissan Leaf stores 24 kWh of energy. That's about the same as 2 kg of aviation fuel, about 5 kg if you take into account engine efficiency. Plus after you burn the fuel, its weight is gone. The battery pack still weighs the same even after it's completely flat. So the average weight of the batteries for the entire flight is essentially doubled compared to fuel. All-electric is totally nonviable for aviation.

The idea of props on larger planes has been tried before. Unfortunately, the public views props (really unducted turbofans) as "old tech" even though they aren't (the engine itself is still a jet turbine). There's considerable resistance to putting them on larger planes, even if they are more efficient. There are also maintenance and safety issues with them as well. McDonnell Douglas tried it on their MD-80 aircraft in the 1980s, but couldn't sell a single one to the airlines.

RE: Interim Solution
By michael67 on 7/21/2011 10:47:28 AM , Rating: 1
And how is this going to help, removing one of the biggest sources of fertilizer from the ecosystem?

You know when they do spring cutting, and reuse the wood chips as natural fertilizer, they now going to sell those as fuel, and 10~20 years from now we all living in desert like lands.

Unless they start using algae or seaweed, I see this only helping fuel cost down but, but costing the environment dearly.

By 91TTZ on 7/21/2011 3:36:02 PM , Rating: 2
I understand the part about not using edible plants like corn- if you use a lot of corn to make fuel, that reduces the supply of edible corn which then drives up the cost. It's basic supply/demand.

But let's say that you're a farmer. The next season you don't plant corn, you plant this biodiesel grass instead. Wouldn't that still reduce the supply of corn and drive up corn prices?

The issue really is percent of arable land being used to grow food compared to the percent being used to grow fuel. If you're re going to claim that you'll get around this reality by growing these fuel crops on new farmland that you weren't previously using to grow food crops, you could use this same logic to grow corn for fuel. You'd just be growing a crop of corn that wouldn't otherwise be available for eating.

By PhatoseAlpha on 7/21/2011 4:25:47 PM , Rating: 2
The central idea is that you use inedible plants that can grow in places where edible crops cannot. Soils which are too sandy, rocky, shady, heavily sloped, plots which are too small, would require too much irrigation, or otherwise marginal or unusable for food crops. By choosing plants which are tolerant of otherwise poor conditions and don't require heavy irrigation or fertilization, a lot of land goes from just arable to being economically viable.

Biofuel idea
By Zingam on 7/21/2011 2:14:51 PM , Rating: 2
Next step in biofuel tech is to start making biofuels from the dead bodies of Foxconn workers who died while making iPhones for the North American market. That would be true recycling and very ecological.

Laterwith increase of demand biofuels might be produced also from tired Chinese workers all over China. India would be another great source for biofuels too.

Grammar again
By mfenn on 7/21/2011 9:04:04 AM , Rating: 1
"Biofuels remain a major interest by the government and private sector, especially among airliners trying to become more eco-friendly and reduce costs."

An airliner is an aircraft operated for the purpose of carrying passengers.
An airline is a company that operates aircraft for the purpose of carrying passengers.

Airliners don't try to become more eco-friendly and reduct costs. Airlines do.

By yuioking on 7/21/2011 9:37:24 PM , Rating: 1
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