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Air New Zealand is the latest airliner to test a new biofuel

In an attempt to reduce its fuel bill and limit its carbon footprint, Air New Zealand successfully tested a new vegetable oil biofuel during a two-hour trial flight earlier in the week.

The flight "milestone" involved using a 50-50 mixture of jatropha oil -- made from a plum-sized fruit -- with regular jet A1 fuel in one engine of a Boeing 747-400 aircraft.  The biofuel industry has also shown a strong interest in using grass, algae and halophytes as possible biofuels.

"There's still a lot of analysis to be done but we achieved a lot with the test flight and the maneuvers we've done," Air New Zealand pilot Captain Dave Morgan told the New Zealand Herald.  "The aircraft performed flawlessly."

Despite a stronger movement to use biofuels to power cars, airline companies have been working with jet manufacturers to try and integrate biofuels for commercial flights.  Last February, Virgin Atlantic tested a flight with a mixture of Brazilian nuts and coconuts with regular jet fuel.  Continental Airlines plans to test a flight using a 50-50 mix of traditional jet fuel along with algae and jatropha.

Aviation industry insiders indicate it'll be easier to convert planes to biofuels when compared to cars, trucks and other land vehicles -- the infrastructure would involve only a few hundred fueling station, rather than the millions that would be required.  Critics say airliners relying on biofuels could help increase deforestation in the Amazon rain jungles, and could lead to food prices increasing further in the future.

Airline companies were hit hard in 2008 by skyrocketing oil prices and must now prepare for less air travelers due to the struggling economy.  Expect both jet manufacturers and airline companies to work together to in the future to hasten the adoption of biofuels.

This is first stage in ANZ's attempt to utilize sustainable fuel development, and it's unknown when the company plans to launch further tests.

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Green gooey algae is our friend
By AnnihilatorX on 1/1/2009 9:43:29 AM , Rating: 2
I don't know about jatropha. But Algae can be grown absolutely anywhere with sun and water (thus can be housed in a tank). Unlike grass it doesn't require firm soil. Artificial algae tanks can be placed on rooftops or unproductive wasteland. They grow fast and are easily mass cultured. Although they look disgusting, they are not invasive species and easily containable.

RE: Green gooey algae is our friend
By mdogs444 on 1/1/2009 10:00:45 AM , Rating: 2
Artificial algae tanks can be placed on rooftops

Although they look disgusting

If they look disgusting, who would want them on their rooftops? lol. People already don't want solar panels on their rooftops because of the sore eye sight.

By Tsuwamono on 1/1/2009 10:23:16 AM , Rating: 3
I think he means office buildings.

By KnightCG on 1/1/2009 3:30:07 PM , Rating: 3
People already don't want solar panels on their rooftops because of the sore eye sight.

That's a cultural perception that will change over time. There are enough solar panels out here in Hawaii (for obvious reasons) that no one even notices them anymore. The sight of a black panel covered roof has become 'normal' so no one frets about the aesthetics.

RE: Green gooey algae is our friend
By gerf on 1/1/2009 10:41:04 AM , Rating: 3
Have you considered the amount of expense in large water holding containers as compared to soil?
1. The container needs to be built. It will need to be relatively heavy duty to hold as much water as you plan, and also clear. So we're looking at large amounts of plastic.
2. The weight of the container on a building is very large. Most roofs won't hold nearly that much weight. Even in the weird event it would, the building structure itself would need to support it as well, as well as the foundation.
3. Algae may produce bio-stuff, but it still needs to be pumped and processed quite a lot.

So is it worth it to have a cube of water on your roof yet? I doubt it.

RE: Green gooey algae is our friend
By Samus on 1/1/2009 7:10:40 PM , Rating: 2
Coming from a horticulure background specializing in hydroponics...

1. only the walls need to be white. the top of the container needs to be clear (obviously) but water is extremely refractive at shallow depth and the walls will reflect a decent spectrum for balanced vegetative growth.

2. Most containers are made out of PVC plastics. Water is 99% of the weight. Since you will be growing a shallow depth, lets say 1 meter, on a large rooftop, say 10 meter x 10 meter, would be apx. 3.3 tons water. Most buildings have close to this much weight on them already when accounting for HVAC, communications, etc. Keep in mind, 3.3 tons is the weight of two cars. Some buildings can support construction equipment (15-ton crains!) during construction projects.

3) no arguement. except to have these containers built on the rooftops of building with processing equipment on-site.

By BZDTemp on 1/1/2009 7:31:44 PM , Rating: 2
10 meter x 10 meter x 1 meter = 100 cubic meter. one cubic meter of water is 1 ton so how do you make it 3.3 tons?

If you want a 10 meter x 10 meter tank to weigh only 3.3 tons you will need it to be very shallow indeed. In fact it would have to be less than 3.3 centimeter to account for the weight of the tank itself.

By lucasb on 1/1/2009 1:57:11 PM , Rating: 2
IMHO, rooftops are much more useful to filter pollutants in stormwater and air, to insulate buildings and as a tool against heat islands.
I don't think it's very wise to use your roof to grow algae.

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