Air New Zealand recently released the scientific findings from the jatropha-fueled test flight they conducted in late December 2008. The flight resulted in a 60-65 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from the jatropha-jet fuel blend compared to traditional jet fuel flights.
The biofuel was responsible for a 1.2 percent savings in fuel over the 12-hour flight, which equaled 1.43 tonnes of fuel. Scientists also estimate that the decrease in fuel consumption saved around 4.5 tonnes of CO2 emissions. The biofuel used was a 50/50 blend of jatropha and Jet A1 fuel.
These findings make the test flight and the jatropha blend a huge success, but now there are lots of questions to be answered regarding the production of jatropha-based fuels. Jatropha has, until recently, been considered a great source for biofuel because it could be grown on non-arable land and required little maintenance or water. This is true of the plant in typical situations, but reports coming out of India show that jatropha crops need attention, water and fertilizer like any other crops in order to yield large quantities, like that necessary for biofuel production. Now that we know that it’s use as a jet fuel is very promising, more research will have to be done to determine how it can be sustainably produced.
Author: M. Treacy