Seattle (CA) - Boeing is exploring second-generation biofuel testing to identify renewable alternative fuel sources for aviation uses. A first flight of a biofuel-driven 747-400 passenger plane is scheduled for the second half of 2008.
Boeing said that it has signed a memorandum of understanding with Air New Zealand and Rolls-Royce to collaborate on the development of viable and sustainable alternative fuels for commercial aviation uses. According to the company, "second-generation" biofuel feed stocks reliable enough to be used in airplanes will contribute to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.
"Our near-term goal in this pioneering effort is to identify sustainable alternative bio-jet fuel sources for the planes that are flying today," said Craig Saddler, president of Boeing Australia. A significant first step is identifying progressive fuel sources that will provide better economic and environmental performance for air carriers, without any change to aircraft engines or the aviation fuel infrastructure." Boeing noted that it is "in discussions to identify potential biofuels that are available in suitable quantities for laboratory and jet-engine performance testing and in compliance with stringent aviation requirements."
In a first demonstration, Boeing plans to use a Boeing 747-400 from Air New Zealand sometime in the second half of next year. The development of the biofuel that could be used in this demonstration - referred to as "bio-jet fuel" – will differ from traditional biofuels available today.
Without providing details, Boeing said that these bio-jet fuels will incorporate "second-generation methodologies relative to sustainable feedstock source selection and fuel processing, which are uniquely suited for aerospace applications." The company believes that bio-jet fuels can be blended with traditional kerosene fuel (Jet-A) to reduce dependency on petroleum-based fuels, while "sustainable bio-jet feedstock sources avoid deforestation practices and potential competition with global food resources."