Bio jet-fuel: fact or fiction?

The new trend among all sorts of green energies is in bio-fuels, those combustible fluids made from renewable sources such as switch grass, corn or soybeans. They’re all over the place in the automotive industry, millions of cars burning E38, offering flex fuel options and touting their eco consciousness.

It should only follow that the airline industry jumped on the wagon.

But how valid is the concept of using bio-fuels to power an aircraft? From the combustion standpoint, the science is there, and several airlines have already proved that bio-fuels can be used for propulsion. Virgin Atlantic, Air New Zealand and JAL have all operated international flights with partially loaded eco-fuels, while stateside, Continental has also shown positive results in one of their Boeing 737 aircraft.

Could this all just be part of the marketing eco trend though? ANZ’s 747 on which they performed their bio fuel test was scrapped last year after sitting on the idle tarmac, and ever since the main media hump earlier this year, jet bio fuel tests have been pretty mum. The fact of the matter is, irrespective of the source or processing, eco fuel just isn’t as efficient as anything from fossil sources. And when it comes to the bottom line, we all know that the airlines love to be frugal.

Asked about the current market’s readiness towards bio fuel, out source inside of the production industry was cautious, saying ” … there are some unsubstantiated claims out there and things like stunts with test flights do not have anything to do with the readiness of the fuel on a production basis for air travel.”

Take that for what it’s worth, but it sounds like eco-fuels have a long way to go before entering the mainstream air travel industry.