Boeing Commercial Airplanes reported it completed the first flight powered by "green diesel," a biofuel made from vegetable oils, waste cooking oil, and waste animal fats, and widely used in ground transportation.
A Boeing ecoDemonstrator 787 flight test airplane was fueled with a blend of 15% green diesel and 85% petroleum jet fuel in its left engine. The flight test was coordinated with the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration, Rolls-Royce, and Pratt & Whitney, and EPIC Aviation blended the fuel.
"The airplane performed as designed with the green diesel blend, just as it does with conventional jet fuel," according to the chief pilot for Boeing’s Product Development and 777x Test and Development, Capt. Mike Carriker. "This is exactly what we want to see in flight tests with a new type of fuel."
Boeing has been working with the FAA to gain approval for aircraft to fly on green diesel, and it previously reported its finding that the fuel is “chemically similar” to HEFA (hydro-processed esters and fatty acids) aviation biofuel approved in 2011. (It is chemically distinct from the “biodiesel” formulation used as an alternative automotive fuel.)
Last January Boeing announced it had identified green diesel as “a significant new source of sustainable aviation biofuel,” one that emits at least 50% less carbon dioxide than fossil fuel over its lifecycle. On a lifecycle basis, sustainably produced green diesel reduces carbon emissions by 50-90% compared to fossil fuel, according to Finland-based Neste Oil, which supplied green diesel for Boeing’s ecoDemonstrator 787.
There exists already 800 million gallons of installed production capacity for green diesel, in the U.S., Europe, and Asia, which Boeing estimated could mean as much as 1% of global jet fuel demand. With a wholesale cost of about $3 per gallon, Boeing noted green diesel is nearly equal price parity with petroleum jet fuel.
"Green diesel offers a tremendous opportunity to make sustainable aviation biofuel more available and more affordable for our customers," stated managing director Julie Felgar of BCA’s Environmental Strategy and Integration unit.
The ecoDemonstrator Program is a platform for researching numerous technologies, using the 787 Dreamliner ZA004, to expedite testing, refinement, and use of new technologies and methods that can improve aviation's environmental performance.
"We will provide data from several ecoDemonstrator flights to support efforts to approve this fuel for commercial aviation and help meet our industry's environmental goals," Felgar added.