Qantas to purchase 30 million litres of biofuel for ex-Los Angeles flights

A file image of Qantas aircraft at Los Angeles Airport. (Rob Finlayson)
A file image of Qantas aircraft at Los Angeles Airport. (Rob Finlayson)

Qantas plans to fuel up its flights from Los Angeles to Australia with biofuel from 2020 thanks to a 10-year deal to purchase some 30 million litres of the renewable fuel as part of efforts to reduce carbon emissions.

The fuel would be produced by US-based SG Preston and comprise of a 50:50 split of renewable jet fuel and traditional jet fuel, Qantas said in a statement on Friday.

Qantas international and freight chief executive Gareth Evans said the company was also looking at adding biofuel flights beyond Los Angeles.

“The partnership with SG Preston is part of our commitment to lowering carbon emissions across our operations and sees us becoming the first Australian airline to use renewable jet fuel on an ongoing basis,” Evans said in a statement.

“As an airline group we are constantly looking for ways to become more fuel efficient and embrace new technologies and this partnership is a significant step on that journey.

“Through our biofuel program we are also exploring renewable jet fuel opportunities in Australia and continue to work with suppliers to develop locally produced biofuels for aviation use.

The airline said the SG Preston-produced biofuel was produced from non-food plant oils and was chemically equivalent to and met the same technical, performance and safety standards as conventional jet fuel emitted half the amount of carbon emissions per gallon over its life cycle.

Further, the renewable plant oils used to produce the biofuel did not compete with food production and met Qantas’s stringent sustainability certification requirements.

“Qantas is showing great leadership in its commitment to biofuels. We look forward to providing a high-performance renewable fuel for one of the most important routes on their international network,” SG Preston chief executive Randy Delbert said.

IATA director for environment Michael Gill congratulated Qantas and SG Preston on the initiative.

“Deals such as these are critical to the development of an aviation biofuel sector globally and the achievement of the aviation industry’s climate goals,” Gill said.

Qantas, and its low-cost-carrier unit Jetstar operated its first biofuel flight in 2012. The biofuel was made from used cooking oil.

The move follows the recent announcement of a two-year trial blending sustainable aviation fuel, or biojet, with traditional jet fuel for use on flights departing Brisbane as part of an initiative with Virgin Australia, Brisbane Airport, the Queensland Government and fuel supplier Gevo Inc.

Virgin Australia, which is coordinating the purchase, supply and blending of the fuels and will use the fuel on its flights departing Brisbane, said in a statement the initiative was the first time in this country that biojet would be supplied through an airport’s regular fuel supply system.

Further, Virgin Australia said the fuel was already being used on Virgin Australia flights departing Los Angeles to Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney.

In October 2016, an overwhelming majority of the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) 191 member states agreed to the Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation (CORSIA).

The landmark agreement has among its targets for the industry to achieve carbon neutral growth by 2020, and a 50 per cent reduction in CO2 emissions by 2050, compared with 2005 levels.

ICAO has also come up with a CO2 emissions standard, where aircraft will have to meet a maximum fuel burn per flight kilometre baseline which must not be exceeded. The standard would apply to new aircraft designs from 2020, while new deliveries of current in-production aircraft models would be subject to the CO2 standard from 2023.

Further, the ICAO measure also recommended a cut-off date of 2028 for production aircraft that did not comply with the standard.

Moreover, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) has set a target of an average improvement in fuel efficiency of 1.5 per cent per year from 2009 to 2020, as well as aspirations to build an aircraft that produced no emissions within 50 years.

Figures from IATA Showed air transport accounted for about two per cent of global man-made CO2 emissions. The figure has been relatively constant over the past 20 years and was not expected to increase beyond three per cent by 2050.

Comments

  1. Greg says

    Question. Has anybody within Engineering in Qantas looked into the possible Engine wear etc. ramifications using this type of fuel? It may be ‘Environmentally friendly, but is it Aircraft Engine friendly?

  2. Adrian P says

    Read the article
    The airline said the SG Preston-produced biofuel was produced from non-food plant oils and was chemically equivalent to and met the same technical, performance and safety standards as conventional jet fuel emitted half the amount of carbon emissions per gallon over its life cycle.

  3. Craigy says

    @ Greg, I am sure they have as I think they would have to provide evidence to CASA for approval to use the fuel even when mixed with Avtur..

  4. Dave says

    Greg, I’m pretty sure to get the approval for use in commercial flight, bio fuel and bio fuel blends have passed all applicable tests. And don’t worry, 30 million litres over 10 years equates to around 15 A380 fuel loads per year for a LA to Syd/Mel sectors with 100% bio fuel. Divide that by how many flights per year leaving LA and you get an idea of how small a percentage it will be per flight.

  5. Pontius the pilot says

    When you put E10 in your car you lose about 5-10% of range. The Latent Heat Value (per kg) is inferior. Not what you want on a really long sector.??

  6. limpy says

    Good old conservative sceptesism is confused when something good for the environment also happens to be an economical advantage.

    Would any airline pay more than their already huge bill for fuel while at the same time reducing life on one of the most expensive components on their aircraft?! It’s ridiculous. They’ve been researching replacement fuel options for many years.

    If this is one part of making aviation sustainable and competitive into the future I’m all for it!

  7. Corey says

    @Pontius the pilot your comment about the fuel being heavier and would give the aircraft and cars etc less range is wrong on all levels. E10 or biofuel for jets etc doesn’t reduce the range at all. E10 has a ron factor of about 94.7-95 so it’s the same as a premium fuel. Good on Qantas however only 30 Million Litres really? One of our QLD biofuel plants produces up to 75 Million PER year and with a 200 Million liter biofuel refinery and research lab opened with parts still under construction.

  8. David says

    @Corey – and only just on topic… RON has little to do with energy content. RON is a measure of the compression required before spontaneous ignition or ‘pinging’ occurs.
    In QLD at least E10 is 91 RON – although I see it as 94 RON in some states.

    Alcohol does have a lower energy content than Petrol and so in controlled tests E10 should give slightly lower economy.. but the difference is pretty much with in the margin of measurement error.

    As for the bio-jet fuel… It is not a simple dilution of the AvTur with a bio-substitute. The resulting fuel is a ‘drop-in’ replacement and certified as such.