New Zealand Works With Algae
On December 30, 2008, at a test strip in northern New Zealand, an Air New Zealand Boeing-747 successfully completed a two-hour test flight with one of its four jet engines that ran off a blend of jet fuel and jatropha bio-diesel, which is another type of bio-diesel. Jatropha is a drought resistant plant that grows relatively well as a healthy plant with a long life. The plant has a high oil production rate and it grows and produces for 50 years before the oil production rate starts to decrease and has a natural insecticide preventing disease. The plant has fruits that look similar to kiwis, which have a high oil content of 37 percent. This oil also has a similar chemical make-up to its petroleum counterpart. Air New Zealand said that the use of its jatropha bio-diesel blend would reduce the “carbon footprint,” otherwise known as a green gas emission rating, of the airplane by up to 25 percent. This experiment was funded and planned in part by Boeing and the company’s engine manufacturer, Rolls Royce.
Since this time other companies have been testing these same bio-diesel fuel mixtures. One example is Continental, an American airline company that is currently having test flights using a three percent algae, 47 percent jatropha, and 50 percent standard jet fuel combination. This proved even more efficiency and resulted in plans for further tests using more and more algae, which is a more plentiful plant growing all over the world as opposed to just Africa, and South America. The crew operated the flight over New Zealand’s North Island, and tested the fuel under a wide variety of conditions while being monitored by a central computer system. These tests including everything from power-up and power down, to take-off and landing. The tests also showed that jatropha bio-diesel has a lower freezing point than standard jet fuel. This same lower freezing point goes for algae bio-diesel and some other plant based bio-diesels. While this is not a large percentage of algae bio-diesel this is an example of society moving toward a greener future by using bio-diesel as at least a partial substitute fuel.(John)