Amazon nuts help fuel first biofuel airline flight
* Sunday February 24 2008
By Nigel Hunt
LONDON, Feb 24 (Reuters) - Nuts picked from Amazon rainforests helped
fuel the world's first commercial airline flight powered by renewable
energy on Sunday.
A Virgin Atlantic jumbo jet flew from London to Amsterdam with one of
its fuel tanks filled with a bio-jet blend including babassu oil and
"Today marks a vital breakthrough for the whole airline industry,"
Virgin founder Richard Branson told reporters in a hangar at Heathrow
airport prior to the flight's departure.
British billionaire Branson said, however, it was unlikely the nut of
the wild growing babassu palm would play a key role as airlines turn to
renewable fuel sources to cut the industry's greenhouse gas emissions.
"We did not want to use biofuels such as corn oil which were competing
with staple food sources," he said, adding he believed algae produced in
places like sewage treatment farms were the most likely future source of
renewable fuel for the airline industry.
Biofuels, which are currently mainly produced from crops such as grain,
vegetable oils and sugar, are seen by advocates as a way to cut
emissions of greenhouse gases and reduce dependence on fossil fuels.
There has been concern, however, that an expansion in the area of crops
grown for energy has helped drive up food prices, and some scientists
have questioned the environmental benefits of so-called first generation
Many scientists believe so-called second generation biofuels, which
could be made from products such as municipal waste, will provide more
substantial environmental benefits without competing with food crops for
The biofuels blend on the Virgin flight contained 20 percent neat
biofuel and 80 percent conventional jet fuel. Branson said tests had
shown it was possible to fly with a 40 percent blend.
Branson, whose Virgin Group business spans an airline, a rail service,
drinks, hotels and leisure, has committed to spending all the profits
from his airline and rail business to combat global warming by cutting
Last year, Virgin started to power some of its trains using a fuel
containing 20 percent biodiesel produced mainly using British rapeseed
oil blended with U.S. soybean oil and palm oil from the Far East.
(Reporting by Nigel Hunt; Editing by Caroline Drees)
Virgin biofuel flight a success
Posted 3 hours 6 minutes ago
A commercial airliner powered partly by biofuel has completed its first
flight, billed as heralding a new eco-friendlier era of air travel.
The Boeing 747 operated by Virgin Atlantic flew from London to Amsterdam
with one of its four engines using fuel derived from plant-based oils.
Virgin Atlantic chief Richard Branson hailed the demonstration flight as
a breakthrough for the airline industry and proof that there were viable
alternatives to traditional jet fuel.
The flight will "enable those of us who are serious about reducing our
carbon emissions to go on developing the fuels of the future, fuels
which will power our aircraft in the years ahead through sustainable
next-generation oils, such as algae," he said in a statement.
The fuel used in the flight was a mixture of oils from coconuts and from
the babassu nut, which grows in rainforests.
It has been rigorously tested but if the engine had failed the Boeing
747 had three other engines capable of getting the plane to its destination.
One concern was that the fuel might freeze at altitude but mid-flight
the pilot, Captain Geoff Andreason, reported via satellite telephone all
But many environmentalists argue that biofuels are a poor alternative,
pointing out that clearing raw land to produce them actually contributes
to global warming by emitting large amounts of greenhouse gases.
Greenpeace called the flight "high altitude greenwash" and said even
producing organic oils could lead to massive greenhouse gas emissions
Check for earlier Pacific Biofuel posts: http://pacbiofuel.blogspot.com/