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Greener travel? Japan tests pond scum as jet biofuel

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The goal, said Jennifer Holmgren, director of renewable resources and chemicals for Honeywell UOP, is to develop a “drop-in” generic biofuel. By drop-in she means a fuel that requires no engine modifications and is chemically identical to ordinary jet fuel. It can be used as economic conditions dictate.

Nicole Piasecki, president of Boeing Japan, said before the JAL test flight that her company hoped to have biofuel certified for use on “revenue-generating flights” in three to four years.

The JAL test used a blend of 84 percent camelina oil, 16 percent jatropha oil, and less than 1 percent algae oil. The three biofuels were mixed 50-50 with kerosene in one of the aircraft’s four engines. It was the first demonstration flight using camelina oil and the first one to use a blend of three different biofuels.

Put another way, the JAL aircraft was powered by fuel made from feedstock grown in Montana (camelina), Tanzania, (jatropha) and Hawaii (algae oil).

Camelina is a vegetable oil crop grown mostly in the northern plains of the US and western Canada. It is technically a “traditional” vegetable oil crop but is considered a second-generation biofuel as it has little food value and is used primarily as a biofuel feedstock.

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