Boeing has completed the world’s first flight using “green diesel,” a sustainable and widely available biofuel used in ground transportation.
The company powered its ecoDemonstrator 787 flight test airplane this week with a blend of 15% green diesel and 85% petroleum jet fuel in the left engine.
“Green diesel offers a tremendous opportunity to make sustainable aviation biofuel more available and more affordable for our customers,” said Julie Felgar, managing director of Environmental Strategy and Integration, Boeing Commercial Airplanes. “We will provide data from several ecoDemonstrator flights to support efforts to approve this fuel for commercial aviation and help meet our industry’s environmental goals.”
Sustainable green diesel is made from vegetable oils, waste cooking oil and waste animal fats. Boeing previously found this fuel is chemically similar to HEFA (hydro-processed esters and fatty acids) aviation biofuel approved in 2011. Green diesel is chemically distinct and a different fuel product than “biodiesel,” which also is used in ground transportation.
With production capacity of three billion litres in the US, Europe and Asia, green diesel could rapidly supply as much as one percent of global jet fuel demand. With a wholesale cost of about $3 per gallon, inclusive of US government incentives, green diesel approaches price parity with petroleum jet fuel.
“The airplane performed as designed with the green diesel blend, just as it does with conventional jet fuel,” said Captain Mike Carriker, Chief Pilot, Product Development and 777X, Boeing Test and Evaluation. “This is exactly what we want to see in flight tests with a new type of fuel.”
Green diesel is among more than 25 new technologies being tested by Boeing’s ecoDemonstrator Programme aboard 787 Dreamliner ZA004. The programme accelerates the testing, refinement and use of new technologies and methods to improve aviation’s environmental performance.
On a lifecycle basis, sustainably produced green diesel reduces carbon emissions by 50 to 90% compared to fossil fuel, according to Finland-based Neste Oil, which supplied green diesel for the ecoDemonstrator 787. The flight test was co-ordinated with the US Federal Aviation Administration, Rolls-Royce and Pratt & Whitney and EPIC Aviation blended the fuel.