Starting next April, a Lufthansa Airbus A321 aircraft making the daily flight between Hamburg and Frankfurt will be running partially on biofuel. The airline will trial the biofuel blend, made of a 50/50 mixture of kerosene and hydrotreated vegetable oil, in one of the plane’s engines for six months. It’s part of the Lufthansa-led burnFAIR project, which is studying the long term effects of sustainable biofuels on aircraft performance. Although the Brazilian airline TAM performed a test flight of a biofuel-powered Airbus A320 last month, Lufthansa claims to be the first airline to conduct a long-term trial using biofuel during flight operations.

The biofuel comes from Finland-based Neste Oil, its feedstock grown under sustainable-verified conditions to ensure it doesn’t compete with food crops or forests for land and water. When consumed, the fuel should emit no more carbon dioxide than what its feedstock consumed while growing.

Airbus will be providing technical assistance, and monitoring the biofuel properties.

“The objective [of burnFAIR] is to gather data on biofuel pollutants in comparison with conventional kerosene, over a longer period,” said Dr. Johann-Dietrich Wörner, Chairman of the Executive Board of the German Aerospace Center. “The measured pollution pattern related to various stresses during flight, and the composition of the exhaust gases, will allow us not only to draw conclusions about the compatibility of biofuel, but also about the maintenance needs of aircraft engines.”

The project will cost Lufthansa an estimated $US8.6 million, and should reduce CO2 emissions by approximately 1,500 pounds (680 kg) during its six-month duration.