SpiceJet’s biofuel flight: Why it’s time for airlines to move towards alternate fuel sources

By: | Updated: August 28, 2018 11:22 AM

SpiceJet on Monday operated India's first biofuel-powered flight from Dehradun to Delhi.

spicejet, biofuelSpiceJet on Monday operated biofuel-powered flight with a landing of the aircraft in the Delhi from Dehradun. (Reuters)

SpiceJet became India’s first airline to fly a biofuel-powered aircraft by operating a test flight from Dehradun to Delhi on Monday. Dependence on biofuel can help airlines reduce their dependence on conventional aviation fuel by nearly 50 percent on each flight, and also help in cutting down fares, Ajay Singh, SpiceJet chief, said. Even though India is still far away from using biofuel for flying jets for commercial operation, the country is working towards a policy in this regard, Road transport and highways minister Nitin Gadkari said. However, mass production of biofuel is needed to achieve this goad, he added.

The fuel companies worldwide are working out ways to manufacture biofuel for flying the aircraft. One of the very few airports which support sustainable infrastructure to support biofuels is situated at Los Angeles, US.

At present, around 20,000 aircrafts ferry around 3 billion passengers worldwide each year and contribute nearly 2 percent of the world’s annual greenhouse gas emissions, The Indian Express report said. Over 50,000 aircrafts would be flying in the coming 20 years creating more complex environmental problems, the report said. In addition, rise in ATF prices alongside those of crude oil, makes a compelling need for the governments and airlines to adopt alternative fuel sources.

Biofuel

CSIR-Indian Institute of Petroleum (IIP) that is based out of Dehradun manufactured 330 kg of biofuel especially for 40-odd-minute Dehradun-Delhi flight. Using biomass, animal fat, agricultural waste, natural gas and vegetable oil, biofuel blends for jet engines can be prepared.

A NASA report that was released last year said that the biofuel use can help in reducing particle emissions in jet exhaust by nearly 50 percent-70 percent.

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has set a target of 1 billion passengers flying on aircraft using a mix of clean energy and fossil fuels by 2025. However, given the present supply chain immaturity of the aviation biofuel industry, biofuels can cost nearly two to three times more than traditional ATF. Over 5,000 commercial flights worldwide have been operated on biofuels.

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