First algae-fueled commercial airliner takes flight

First algae-fueled commercial airliner takes flight

Summary: United Airlines sponsors first commercial flight of a plane powered by biofuels created by Solazyme, using a Honeywell process.

TOPICS: Telcos

United became the first commercial airline airline today to operate a passenger flight powered by a combination of biofuel and petroleum-derived diesel fuel. The split was 60 percent to 40 percent, respectively.

Flight 1403 from Houston to Chicago, a Boeing 737-800, comes just four months after the approval of renewable fuels for commercial usage. The biofuel used for the flight was processed by San Francisco-based Solazyme, using algae-derived oil reprocessed with technology from Honeywell. United, which is a subsidiary of United Continental Holdings, has signed a letter of intent to purchase 20 million gallons of the algae-derived fuel annually starting as early as 2014.

Said Pete McDonald, executive vice president of United and chief operations officer:

"United is taking a significant step forward to advance the use of environmentally responsible and cost-efficient alternative fuels. Sustainable biofuels, produce on a large scale at an economically viable price, can one day play a meaningful role in power everyone's trip on an airplane."

The plan to use Solazyme's biofuels is part of United's Eco-Skies sustainability program. Since 1994, the company has improved its fuel efficiency by 32 percent. Together, United and Continental already use 3,600 alternative fuel or zero emissions ground vehicles.

The new fuel used in Monday's flight is what is referred to as "Hydroprocessed Esters and Fatty Acids" (HEFA) fuel. The Solazyme brand of this fuel is called Solajet, and it has been approved by the Federal Aviation Administration as a drop-in replacement for petroleum-based fuels. That means no engine modifications are required and no special action is required on the part of the pilots.

Topic: Telcos

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  • RE: First algae-fueled commercial airliner takes flight

    An interesting article. For man-made fuel, algae is a lot more sensible than corn on a number of levels.

    Just one nit, though. The distinction between Solazyme???s Solajet fuel and petroleum-derived diesel fuel is more of man-made vs. nature-made as the hydrocarbons found in the vast majority of oil fields trace back mostly to algae too. It just takes nature a lot more time to convert the algae to petroleum hydrocarbons.

    Rabid Howler Monkey
    • NO IS NOT

      @Rabid Howler Monkey Algae is FOOD, not only for sea/river life but also HUMANS. We should not be destroying food sources to create fuel that turns acceptable efficiency into total inefficiency.

      What articles like this will never tell you is that the (test) flight used 40+% more fuel than it usually requires for the same trip and the vehicle landed with the reserves almost depleted.

      I honestly doubt United will be buying 20 million gallons when it will INCREASE the cost of fuel (by using more per flight) .... and lets not forget that bio-fuels increase maintenance cost on any engine.
      • Of course they will. The federal government will

        simply subsidize the extra cost using Obama's personal stash.
    • I would submit that it takes a lot less time for oil to

      form from decaying marine matter than you think.
      • RE: First algae-fueled commercial airliner takes flight

        @baggins_z Any one of the following explanations for the origin of oil takes a lot longer longer than Solazyme's patented process:<br><br>1. Organic origin of oil<br><a href="" target="_blank" rel="nofollow"></a> (be sure to go through step 3)<br><br>2. Abiotic origin of oil<br><a href="" target="_blank" rel="nofollow"></a><br><br>3. "the flood" origin of oil<br><a href="" target="_blank" rel="nofollow"></a><br><br>Guess which one of these three is tripe.
        Rabid Howler Monkey
  • mistake

    Sorry you are wrong, Aeromexico has a weekly route with biofuel for about a month so far