Continental releases results of biofuel demonstration

By | June 09, 2009
Posted June 18, 2009

Continental Airlines announced the results of its Jan. 7 biofuel demonstration flight, which was conducted in partnership with Boeing, GE Aviation/CFM International, and Honeywell's UOP. The biofuel blend performed as well as or better than traditional jet fuel, displaying an approximately 1.1 percent increase in fuel efficiency over traditional jet fuel in different stages of the demonstration flight.

Overall life cycle greenhouse gas emissions related to using a biofuel of the nature used on the Continental demonstration flight are estimated to be reduced by 60 percent to 80 percent as compared to traditional jet fuel.

"We are pleased with the successful results of Continental's biofuel demonstration flight," said Leah Raney, Continental's managing director of global environmental affairs. "We look forward to working with our partners as biofuels go through the certification process, and we hope to see these fuels produced in commercial quantities in the near future."

The Continental flight was the first biofuel demonstration flight by a commercial carrier in North America, the first sustainable biofuel demonstration flight by a commercial carrier using a two-engine aircraft, and the first biofuel demonstration flight by a commercial carrier using fuel partially derived from algae.

During the approximately 90-minute flight, Continental test pilots successfully engaged the aircraft, a Boeing 737-800 equipped with CFM International CFM56-7B engines, in a number of flight maneuvers, such as mid-flight engine shutdown and re-start, and power accelerations and decelerations.

The aircraft's No. 2 engine operated with a biofuel blend consisting of 50 percent biologically-derived fuel and 50 percent traditional jet fuel. The aircraft's No. 1 engine operated on 100 percent traditional jet fuel, allowing Continental to compare performance between the biofuel blend and traditional fuel.

The flight took place in January 2009 in Houston, and the biofuel blend included components derived from algae and jatropha plants, both sustainable, second-generation sources that do not impact food crops or water resources or contribute to deforestation. The algae oil was provided by Sapphire Energy, and the jatropha oil by Terasol Energy.

Because the fuel was a "drop-in" fuel, no modifications were necessary to the aircraft or engine. After inspections, the aircraft returned to regular revenue service the next day.

Continental's biofuel demonstration is one of numerous environmental initiatives that the company has undertaken in the past several years. The airline also recently enhanced its recycling program, has undertaken comprehensive efforts to reduce the environmental impact of its ground fleet by testing alternative energy sources, and offers customers a carbon offset program, offered through nonprofit Sustainable Travel International.

SOURCE: Continental Airlines
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