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Continental to become first North American airline to test biofuels

ATW Daily News - by Perry Flint - 14 Mar.07

Continental Airlines, in partnership with Boeing and GE Aviation, will conduct a biofuels demonstration flight in the first half of 2009 using one of its 737NGs. It will be the first such flight in North America and the third overall.

Virgin Atlantic Airways carried out a demonstration flight last month on a 747-400 with one engine partially powered by a blend of babassu oil and coconut oil (ATWOnline, Feb. 26) and Air New Zealand will conduct one later this year with an undisclosed fuel mix.

Whereas Virgin used an 80/20 mix of conventional and biofuel, CO Executive VP-Operations Mark Moran said yesterday that its test may involve a mixture of as much as 50/50 kerojet and biofuel on one of the test aircraft's two engines.

The choice of biofuels is pending, according to Boeing Director-Environmental Strategy Bill Glover. "One thing we're seeing is a lot of innovation around biofuels for aviation," he said. "There's work going on in all these areas and progress is pretty rapid."

He stressed that the fuel will be a so-called "second generation" biofuel that does not compete with food crops, adding, "Algae is certainly on the list. Other things on the list are babassu nuts, halophyte plants, jatropha plants or even switchgrass."

Moran cited "two critical issues facing the aviation industry that biofuel technology addresses. The first is the impact of aviation on the environment" and the second is "the high cost of fuel." He said CO has achieved a 35% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions and fuel consumption per mainline RPM over the past 10 years.

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