Budget carrier SpiceJet today successfully operated “India’s first ever biojet fuel flight”. A Bombardier Q400 aircraft, partially using biojet fuel, took off from Dehradun and landed at the airport in the national capital. The SpiceJet flight was powered with a blend of 75% air turbine fuel (ATF) and 25% biojet fuel, it said. SpiceJet in a statement said the advantage of using biojet fuel as compared to ATF is that it reduces carbon emissions and enhances fuel efficiency. Made from Jatropha crop, the fuel has been developed by the CSIR-Indian Institute of Petroleum (IIP), Dehradun, SpiceJet said.
Around 20 people, including officials from aviation regulator DGCA and SpiceJet, were in the test flight. The duration of the flight was around 25 minutes, according to an airline executive.
SpiceJet Chairman and Managing Director Ajay Singh said biojet fuel is low cost and helps in significantly reducing carbon emissions.
“It has the potential to reduce our dependence on traditional aviation fuel by up to 50% on every flight and bring down fares,” he said.
The biojet fuel has been recognised by American Standard Testing Method (ASTM) and meets the specification standards of Pratt & Whitney and Bombardier for commercial application in aircraft. The Q400 aircraft has 78 seats.
SpiceJet’s biofuel is a mix of the oil extracted from the seeds of Jatropha plant and aviation turbine fuel, the airline said. Five hundred farmer families in Chhattisgarh are involved in the production of the partially-refined biofuel used in today’s flight.
The biofuel-driven flight comes at a time when spiralling aviation fuel price has strained the finances of domestic airlines. The government will make an environment friendly aviation action plan till 2025, Civil Aviation Minister Suresh Prabhu said. “We want to increase the use of biofuel in the country so that there is reduction in green house gas emission and import of petroleum. We will make sure that more and more airlines start the use of biofuel,” Mr Prabhu said.
CSIR-Indian Institute of Petroleum (IIP) that is based out of Dehradun manufactured 330 kg of biofuel especially for 40-odd-minute Dehradun-Delhi flight. Using biomass, animal fat, agricultural waste, natural gas and vegetable oil, biofuel blends for jet engines can be prepared.
A NASA report that was released last year said that the biofuel use can help in reducing particle emissions in jet exhaust by nearly 50 percent-70 percent.
The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has set a target of 1 billion passengers flying on aircraft using a mix of clean energy and fossil fuels by 2025. However, given the present supply chain immaturity of the aviation biofuel industry, biofuels can cost nearly two to three times more than traditional ATF. Over 5,000 commercial flights worldwide have been operated on biofuels.