The results are back from Continental Airlines' biofuel test flight in January, and they look good. Continental's biofuel blend yielded a 1.1% increase in fuel efficiency over traditional jet fuels, and more impressively, cut carbon emissions by 60% to 80%.
The 90-minute January flight--the first two-engine commercial carrier biofuel demonstration--used a Boeing 737-800 plane decked out with CFM56-7B engines. The No. 2 engine contained a 50% biofuel blend of materials derived from jatropha and algae along with 50% traditional jet fuel. Terasol Energy and Sapphire Energy provided biofuels for the flight, which performed feats including mid-flight engine shutdown and restart, power accelerations, and decelerations.
So what's next for Continental's biofuel program now that it has been proven effective? We'll just have to wait and see. Leah Raney, Continental's managing director of global environmental affairs, would only say that "we hope to see these fuels produced in commercial quantities in the near future." The company also has to get the fuels certified before they can be used on commercial flights. Mostly, though, it's up to biofuel companies like Terasol and Sapphire to get things going.