This past Sunday, Qantas flight QF96 departed from Los Angeles and arrived in Melbourne 15 hours later. What made the trans-Pacific flight special is the fact that it was the first time an airliner flying from the US to Australia was powered – at least partially – by biofuel.
The Boeing Dreamliner 787-9 was running a blend of 90 percent traditional jet fuel and 10 percent biofuel, the latter of which was derived from a non-food type of mustard seed known as Brassica Carinata.
According to Qantas, the biofuel is reportedly capable of reducing carbon emissions by over 80 percent as compared to regular jet fuel. This means that the blended fuel used in this week's flight should have resulted in a 7 percent reduction, which works out to 18,000 kg (39,683 lb) in reduced carbon emissions.
Developed by Canada's Agrisoma Biosciences, the Carinata mustard plant can be grown on fallow land unsuitable for other crops, or between regular crop cycles – not only does it reportedly improve soil quality and reduce erosion, but it also provides farmers with an additional source of income.
Agrisoma and Qantas are currently working together to bring Carinata farming to Australia, where field trials have already shown that the water-efficient crop should do well. It is hoped that by 2020, Australian farmers will be growing it as the country's first commercial aviation biofuel seed crop.
"Our work with Agrisoma will enable Australian farmers to start growing today for the country's biofuel needs of the future," says Qantas International CEO, Alison Webster. "The longer-term strategic goal of the partnership is to grow 400,000 hectares [988,422 acres] of Carinata which would yield over 200 million litres [52.8 million gallons] of bio-jet fuel each year. This will support the development of a renewable jet fuel supply and bio-refinery in Australia to power our fleet and further reduce carbon emissions across our operations."
Want a cleaner, faster loading and ad free reading experience?
Try New Atlas Plus. Learn more