Earlier this year, Air Canada joined a growing number of airlines conducting flights using biofuels. Like similar flights by Boeing and Lufthansa, the aircraft was powered by a mix of petroleum and biofuel. Now the National Research Council of Canada (NRC) has removed the fossil fuel component completely with the first flight of a civil jet powered by 100 percent unblended biofuel.

In the milestone flight over Ottawa on October 29, the twin engines of a specially equipped Dassault Falcon 20 business jet were powered by a biofuel derived from oilseed crops. The Falcon 20, with NRC pilot Tim Leslie at the controls, was tailed by a T-33, which collected data on the emissions generated by the biofuel-powered aircraft. NRC researchers will use the information gathered during the flight to gain a better understanding of the environmental impact of biofuel.

The drop-in jet biofuel, called ReadiJet, is produced from Resonance Energy Feedstock, a brand of industrial oilseed crop developed by Agrisoma Biosciences Inc. from Brassica carinata, a plant also known as Ethiopian mustard.

Agrisoma says the elite lines of B. carinata it has developed offer growers high yields, high oil content, and are ideally suited to the semi-arid growing conditions that can be found in the southern Prairies of Canada and Northern Plains of the U.S. Over 40 commercial growers in Western Canada have been contracted this year to grow over 6,000 acres (2,428 hectares) of the crop that will be used to create the 100 percent biofuel.

The feedstock was converted into biofuel by Applied Research Associates (ARA) and Chevron Lummus Global (CLG) using their ISOCONVERSION Process, which they claim is a quick, low-cost process that uses water at high temperature and pressure to convert renewable oils into a “crude oil intermediate.” This intermediate is then reacted with hydrogen over CLG catalysts and processed into alternative fuels the companies say are “virtually indistinguishable from their petroleum counterparts.”

Preliminary results from the 100 percent biofuel-powered flight are expected in the coming weeks.

Source: NRC, Agrisoma, ARA