FARNBOROUGH 2010: Porter Airlines Q400 to fly in biofuel test

For the first time, a Bombardier Q400 will be flown using fuel from an oilseed crop as part of a new biofuel test programme in which a six-partner consortium, led by Saskatchewan-based Targeted Growth Canada (TGC), expects to demonstrate the emerging biofuel produced from camelina in a Porter Airlines Q400 by early 2012.

Renewable fuel from camelina offers a real opportunity to reduce the environmental impact of commercial aviation by significantly reducing carbon lifecycle emissions.

Sustainable Oils, LLC and Honeywell’s UOP will participate in the camelina biofuel test programme on the Q400 along with TGC, Bombardier Aerospace, Porter Airlines and Pratt & Whitney Canada. TGC will work on crop optimisation and growth, Sustainable Oils will pre-refine the camelina oil and Honeywell’s UOP will produce the hydro-treated renewable jet (HRJ) biofuel from the oils provided.

Funding for the project is being provided by the partners as well as by Sustainable Development Technology Canada (SDTC), an arms-length, not-for-profit corporation created by the Government of Canada and Green Aviation Research & Development Network (GARDN).

“It’s important for Canadian companies to take leadership roles in developing the next generation of environmentally-friendly business applications,” explained Robert Deluce, president and chief executive officer of Porter Airlines. “Porter and our consortium partners recognise this, and are encouraged with the progress we’re making on biofuel for aircraft.”

Recognized for its potential as a biofuel and bio-lubricant, camelina is a member of the flowering plant family Brassicaceae, which also includes well-known species such as cabbage and cauliflower. The programme objective is to optimise production and establish performance standards for refined camelina oil as a drop-in replacement for jet fuel that fits with the current refining and distribution infrastructure and with existing engines.

The process takes farmer-produced grain through crushing to a pre-refined vegetable oil. This crude camelina oil is then refined into HRJ. Camelina HRJ provides benefits over traditional petroleum fuel because it reduces greenhouse gas emissions by up to 80%, reduces sulphur dioxide (SO2) and is not competitive with food production because it can be grown in rotation with wheat and on marginal land. The strategic benefit to farmers is that it allows them to drive additional revenue from acreage with a low-cost input crop with two end user markets – the oil for fuel and “meal” for livestock and dairy industries.

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