Lufthansa first airline to use biofuel on commercial flights

In April 2011, Lufthansa is to begin a six-month trial with an Airbus A321 on scheduled com-mercial flights on the Hamburg-Frankfurt-Hamburg route. Pending certification, one of the aircraft’s engines will use a 50-50 mix of biofuel and traditional kerosene.

The primary purpose of the project is to conduct a long-term trial to study the effect of biofuel on engine maintenance and engine life. During the six months trial, Lufthansa will save around 1,500 tonnes of CO2 emissions, said Lufthansa Chief Wolfgang Mayrhuber in Berlin today. “Lufthansa will be the world’s first airline to utilise biofuel in flight operations within the framework of a long-term trial. This is a further consistent step in a proven sustainability strategy, which Lufthansa has for many years successfully pursued and implemented,” said Mayrhuber.

The “burnFAIR“ project dedicated to the testing of biofuel, unveiled by Lufthansa today, is a successful example of integrating research efforts for the purpose of realising climate care objectives. This project is part of an overall “FAIR” initiative (Future Aircraft Research), in which other issues – alongside biofuel compatibility - such as new engine and aircraft con-cepts or other fuels, e.g. liquified natural gas (LNG) are under study. The Federal Government is contributing a total of five million euros towards the “FAIR” initiative, of the total 2.5 million euros is earmarked for the Lufthansa “burnFAIR” project.

Lufthansa is currently making intensive preparations for the practical tests. Aside from the actual research project, the acquisition of biofuel in sufficient volume and the complex logis-tics it involves is proving a challenge in the run-up to the trial. The aircraft, for example, will be fuelled only in Hamburg. Furthermore, an array of internal processes must be modified, since Lufthansa does not normally deploy a plane exclusively on a single route, but always in a rotation chain on flights to different destinations.

The project will cost Lufthansa an estimated 6.6 million euros. “We know that biofuel is an issue we must address carefully. We can see the opportunities this fuel offers and give seri-ous attention to the debate on the requisite raw materials. But we first want to acquire experience in daily practice in the use of biofuels. We are doing pioneering work in that no other airline to date has operated an aircraft engine with biofuel over a longer term,” observed Wolfgang Mayrhuber. “Our fuel is sustainable. No rain forest will be deforested for Lufthansa biofuel. In the procurement of biofuel, we ensure it originates from a sustainable supply and production process. Our licensed suppliers must provide proof of the sustainability of their processes.“

Production of the bio-synthetic kerosene utilised by Lufthansa rests on the basis of pure bio-mass (Biomass to Liquid- BTL). The producer is Neste Oil, a fuel refining and marketing company from Finland. The company has years of experience in biofuel production and has cooperated with Lufthansa for many years. Certification of its biofuel is expected in March 2011.

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