Intelligent Energy

Honeywell: The Lindbergh of aviation biofuels

Posting in Aerospace

Plant-based jet fuel maker has scheduled the first non-stop trans-Atlantic biofuel flight, leaving this Friday from New Jersey to Paris.

Jet biofuels should get a boost this Friday, when Honeywell has scheduled a trans-Atlantic flight heading to Paris from Morristown, N.J., powered by Honeywell-branded Green Jet Fuel.

The corporate jet, a Gulfstream G450, will carry executives from Honeywell UOP, the company’s petrochemical division, using a 50/50 blend of the biofuel and petroleum-based jet fuel.

It’s scheduled to land in Paris on Saturday morning. The jet is bound for the Paris Air Show, where Honeywell will run additional flights in an effort to attract customers. The show runs from June 20 to 26.

Several aerospace and airline companies, as well as military groups, have flown jet biofuel test flights, but this weekend’s would appear to be the first non-stop trans-oceanic flight - 84 years after Charles Lindbergh made the world’s first non-stop trans-Atlantic plane flight in his Spirit of St. Louis.

Last August, UK testing and safety company Intertek flew a single engine propeller plane from Toronto to Germany’s Nordhorn-Lingen Airport near Holland, stopping in Greenland, Iceland and Scotland.

The week-long journey, in partnership with the Netherlands Clean Technology Development Center, is believed to have used a smaller percentage of biofuel than the 50/50 mix for the scheduled Honeywell trip.

The Honeywell flight comes as interest in jet biofuels grows. As reported by SmartPlanet last week, ASTM, a key U.S. standards agency, could give final approval to aviation biofuels by July 1 .

That would then clear the way for commercial use. At least one airline, Germany’s Lufthansa, plans to soon start using biofuel mixed with conventional kerosene-based jet fuel on daily commercial flights between Hamburg and Frankfurt. Finland’s Neste Oil would provide the biofuel.

Interest could be particularly keen in Europe, where airlines in 2012 will have to start paying for carbon credits as part of the EU’s emissions trading scheme, from which they have been exempt.

U.S. and Chinese airlines have objected to the scheme, noting that it will cost them disproportionately on long haul flights to Europe. The Air Transport Association of America has filed action in European court, and China has threatened a trade war that could include retaliation against the Chinese manufacturing arm of European aircraft maker Airbus.

Jet biofuels still face many commercial, political and environmental challenges. They are currently far more expensive than conventional fuel, and, logistically, not all varieties can be easily “dropped in” to existing fuel infrastructure. Jet biofuels, like biofuels in general, also face opposition because their production can use land and water that could otherwise grow crops and feed and sustain populations.

The biofuel industry is responding by seeking fuel sources such as wood waste, microalgae, animal fat and fish oil that minimize those effects.

Honeywell UOP, based in Des Plaines, Ill., processes its Green Jet Fuel from camelina, an inedible plant source. It developed the fuel under contract from the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) for the U.S. military.

Photo: Flickriver

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Mark Halper

Contributing Editor

Mark Halper has written for TIME, Fortune, Financial Times, the UK's Independent on Sunday, Forbes, New York Times, Wired, Variety and The Guardian. He is based in Bristol, U.K. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure