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Air New Zealand to trial biofuel weed Share on Facebook
Air New Zealand will make its first commercial flight using biofuels next month as it looks to cut fuel consumption and carbon emissions, the national carrier said on Wednesday.

by The World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) - Monday, 17 November 2008

The flight on Dec. 3 out of Auckland will use a 50:50 blend of standard jet fuel and a biofuel made from the jatropha plant in a Rolls Royce engine on a Boeing 747-400, the airline added.

"The blended fuel meets the essential requirement of being a 'drop-in' fuel, meaning its properties will be virtually indistinguishable from traditional Jet A1 fuel," said Air NZ's chief pilot, David Morgan, in a statement.

Jatropha is a plant that grows up to three metres and produces inedible nuts, which contain the oil. It is grown on arid and marginal land in Africa.

Air New Zealand told Reuters in June it hoped to use one million barrels of biofuel a year, about 10 percent of its fuel consumption, in its jet fleet by 2013.

Shares in Air NZ, about three-quarters owned by the New Zealand government, last traded steady at NZ$0.91, in an overall weaker market.

British-based Virgin Atlantic used a bio-jet fuel blend made from babassu and coconut oils in a commercial flight in February. ($1=NZ$1.75) (Reporting by Glen Johnson and Gyles Beckford, Editing by Mark Bendeich)


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OK, OK, so the weed in question is actually the jatropha plant, a weed indigenous to India and Africa. But still! Air New Zealand is planning to fill one of the four engines of a 747 with the weed and the remaining three engines with normal jet fuel to test the potential of using jatropha as a biofuel.

It's a clear sign of the desperations airlines are feeling with the prices of jet fuel rising to, ahem, stratospheric levels. With jatropha costing 20-30% less than fuel, it looks like an attractive alternative. It's not derived from a food source like ethanol is, which is a big plus for ANZ. It's also a hearty plant that can cope with poor soil and a lack of water, making it easy to come by. You know, because it's a weed. What did you think the headline meant?
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