Alaska Airlines just announced it will use a 20 percent biofuel blend in 75 flights this month between Seattle, Washington, D.C., and Portland. The maiden flights take off on Wednesday.
It’s more of a demonstration project than a new way of doing business. The biofuel, which comes from used cooking oil, will reduce flight emissions by 10 percent – the equivalent of taking 26 cars off the road for a year. But it costs nearly six times the price of regular jet fuel, according to Bobbie Egan, a spokeswoman for Alaska.
But if all Alaska flights followed suit, the annual emissions savings would be the equivalent of taking 64,000 cars off the road. In a news release, Alaska’s CEO said this month’s flights are meant to show the biofuel industry “if you build it, we will buy it.”
“Commercial airplanes are equipped and ready for biofuels,” said Alaska Air Group Chairman and CEO Bill Ayer. “Commercial airplanes are equipped and ready for biofuels. They will enable us to fly cleaner, foster job growth in a new industry, and can insulate airlines from the volatile price swings of conventional fuel to help make air travel more economical. What we need is an adequate, affordable and sustainable supply. To the biofuels industry, we say: If you build it, we will buy it.”
Alaska bought 28,000 gallons of the biofuel blend from Dynamic Fuels, Egan said, and it wasn’t easy. The company had to use a broker from Denmark, and the only fuel that was available was in Louisiana. The fuel, made from used cooking oil, was refined in Texas before being delivered to Portland and Seattle (Two side notes: A clever headline: “Fry, the friendly skies”, and a new brand of biofuel thieves stealing the evermore valuable restaurant grease).
There’s been a lot of talk about growing aviation biofuels in the Pacific Northwest as of late. A group called Sustainable Aviation Fuels Northwest put a lot of muscle into a study that shows the region has the feedstock, the fuel delivery infrastructure and the political will to launch the industry here.
Alaska Airlines will make three daily round-trip flights between Seattle and Portland and one daily trip between Seattle and Washington, D.C. using 20 percent biofuel in the month of November.
Other airlines are experimenting with aviation biofuel, too, but the price is still pretty high because supply is scant, the airline industry says. The first United Airlines flight powered by a 40-60 blend of biofuel and petroleum jet fuel flies from Houston to Chicago today.
And, as Biofuels Digest reports here, there have been numerous other “firsts” in the aviation biofuel realm this year:
“In June, KLM Royal Dutch Airlines became the first airline in the world to operate a commercial flight carrying 171 passengers on aviation biofuels. Flight KL1233 – a Boeing 737-800 – took off this afternoon at 12:30 hours from Schiphol bound for Charles de Gaulle in Paris carrying 171 passengers.
In July, Thomson Airways announced that it will fly its Birmingham to Palma on 28th July 2011 using sustainable aviation biofuels supplied by the KLM fuel consortium, SkyNRG. This will be the first commercial flight from the UK flown using aviation biofuels.
Also in July, In Germany, Lufthansa became the world’s first airline to offer routine flights powered by biofuel. The airline now operates four daily round trips between Hamburg and Frankfurt. The Airbus A321 planes will use a biofuel blend of 50 percent hydrotreated renewable jet fuel made from feedstocks such as inedible plants and wood chips.
Later that month, Finnair announced plans to operate flights powered by biofuel. The airline will operated a biofuel flight between Amsterdam Schiphol and Helsinki in the week of July 18th, using either an Airbus A319 or A320 aircraft. Both engines ran on a 50 percent blend of biofuel produced from recycled vegetable oil and kerosene, and were refuelled at Amsterdam Schiphol airport.
In September, Mexico’s largest airline, Aeromexico, began using a 25 percent biofuel mixture on its flights from Mexico City to San Jose, Costa Rica.
In October, Spanish national airline Iberia Lineas Aereas de Espana SA flew the country’s first commercial flight using a 25% blend of biojet fuel made from camelina. The inaugural flight using an Airbus A320 flew from Madrid to Barcelona.
Last week, Air China in partnership with Boeing, conducted China’s first sustainable biofuel flight. The two-hour mainland flight from Beijing Capital International Airport was witnessed by officials from both countries and highlights the viability of using sustainable aviation biofuel sourced in China. PetroChina, working with Honeywell’s UOP, sourced and refined the China-grown, jatropha-based biofuel.”