From: Correspondents in Rotorua - 28/05/2008
AIR New Zealand says it will test a new generation of biofuel before the end of this year, and aims to convert some of its domestic fleet to using the greener fuel source within five years.
Air NZ deputy chief executive Norm Thompson said the airline would later this year be the first in the world to test a second generation biofuel made from jatropha, a bush grown in India that produces seeds with a high oil content.
"We are absolutely committed to this. Our goal within the organisation is certainly to get into a position where we could run if not all, certainly part of our domestic fleet on biofuels," Mr Thompson said.
"Believe you me, this is happening quicker than we had planned. It is really advancing quite quickly and the way Jet A-1 (airline fuel) is priced at the moment, at $US172, it gives a hell of a lot of people a hell of a lot of encouragement to get on and make it happen bloody quickly," he said.
He said early work showed biofuels cost about half the price of normal aviation fuel, and produced only 50 per cent of the environmental emissions.
Mr Thompson said Air NZ aimed to convert at least part of its domestic fleet to using biofuels in five years, but it was hard to know when this would occur, because regulators had to first approve such a fuel for safety.
He said he hoped ultimately for long-haul flights to be powered using biofuels, but this was made more difficult because of the challenges in sourcing the same fuels at overseas destinations.
The jatropha-based fuel Air NZ was experimenting with is a different type of biofuel to that used by a Virgin Atlantic plane in February when it became the first commercial airline to use biofuel.
"The fuel that we are looking at at the moment is one of a couple of biofuels ... The other one which we think has probably got some potential going forward is from algae," Mr Thompson said.