Etihad flies first flight using plant-based fuel

Lauren Eldershaw
By Lauren Eldershaw January 18, 2019 14:29

Etihad flies first flight using plant-based fuel

The Sustainable Bioenergy Research Consortium (SBRC) has made the first commercial flight using locally created maintainable fuel on an Etihad Airways Boeing 787, powered by GE’s Genx-1B engines.

His Excellency Dr Thani bin Ahmed Al Zeyoudi, Minister of Climate Change and Environment said: “The UAE’s visionary leadership is strongly committed to positioning the country as a global hub for innovation and sustainability. In this context, productive cross-disciplinary public-private partnerships are crucial to fueling research and development efforts and creating game-changing innovations that enable a more sustainable future.” … “Deep decarbonization of energy-intensive industries has a ripple effect on food security and climate action. Clean, alternative aviation fuels are an innovative and sustainable solution to significantly reducing harmful carbon emissions. The UAE is proud to be a pioneer in this domain.”

This is the first occasion that a flight has been functioned on fuel derived from plants that have been developed in saltwater.

Sustainable fuel for the flight was originated from oil in Salicornia plants, which were grown on the two-hectare SEAS farm in Masdar City. The SEAS is the first desert bionetwork that is designed to harvest fuel and food in saltwater. Fish and shrimp that have been raised at the facility offer nutrients for the plants as well as donate to the UAE’s food manufacture.

Dr Arif Sultan Al Hammadi, Executive Vice-President, Khalifa University of Science and Technology, declared: “The landmark achievement by the SBRC, part of Masdar Institute at Khalifa University, and partners marks a new beginning for the use of clean fuel for air travel. Khalifa University is proud to be part of the consortium, driving research and innovation, while contributing to creating a sustainable biofuel value chain, supporting the UAE’s strategic objectives in the energy and food sectors. The collaboration partners and Masdar Institute researchers have contributed significantly to achieve this success and we believe the use of biofuel for this commercial flight will make a compelling statement that impacts stakeholders in the aviation, energy and transportation sectors”.

Dr Al Hammadi added: “As a leading research institution in the region focused on providing cutting edge technologies in clean energy, Masdar Institute at Khalifa University remains committed to continue with its mandate to produce biofuel, clean energy, and sustainable technologies for reducing carbon emissions, as well as water and environment-related research.”

Using sustainable feedstock to create the fuel considerably lowers life-cycle carbon dioxide releases compared to fossil fuel. The biofuel is merged directly with jet fuel and does not involve making any changes to aircraft, engines or airport fueling delivery arrangements.

ADNOC Refining has performed an essential role, providing the knowledge and substructure to ensure the effective refining of the seed oil to meet severe jet fuel principles. ADNOC Distribution has also run a crucial section of the project through the blending and delivery of the biofuel to the aircraft.

Sean Schwinn, Vice President of Strategy and Market Development for Boeing, said: “Etihad’s flight proves SEAS is a game-changer that can substantially benefit air transport and the world. The research and technology being developed shows significant promise to transform coastal deserts into productive farmland supporting food security and cleaner skies.”

In March 2016, The SEAS pilot facility became operational. Salt-tolerant halophyte plants that flourish in desert situations and do not have need of fresh water or arable terrain to produce are cultivated there. After wastewater from the fish pollinates the plants, it is diverted into a farmed mangrove forest. This further eliminates nutrients and delivers treasured carbon storage before the naturally filtered and treated waste is cleared back into the sea.

During the next couple of years, this scheme is expected to expand up to 200 hectares in the progress towards full-scale commercial completion.

Lauren Eldershaw
By Lauren Eldershaw January 18, 2019 14:29