China's aviation biofuel test a success

Updated: 2011-10-28 17:12


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China's aviation biofuel test a success

A boeing 747-400 plane using mixed fuel of biofuel and traditional aviation kerosene flies during the test flight in Beijing, capital of China, Oct 28, 2011. The first biofuel test flight of China was conducted on Friday. The biofuel is extracted from Jatropha curcas by China and the United States. [Photo/Xinhua]

BEIJING - Air China on Friday conducted its first trial flight of a passenger plane powered by a mix of biofuel and traditional aviation fuel.

The Boeing 747 landed safely at Beijing Capital International Airport at 9:30 am after it burned more than 10 tonnes of biofuel.

Analysts believe the successful trial indicates that biofuel will become an alternative energy option for commercial passenger flights in the near future.

After the test, Zhang Hongying, an official with the Civil Aviation Administration of China, proclaimed that biofuel was now ready to be used for commercial flights.

Sun Li, general manager of the China National Aviation Fuel Group Corporation, a large state-owned supplier of aviation fuel, said the fuel used was a 50-50 mix.

Air China vice president He Li said the composition and the burning efficiency of the fuel had been tested as well as its impact on the engines.

The biofuel used in the trial flight was produced from the seeds of tung trees.

Shen Diancheng, a vice president of PetroChina Company Ltd., said it had taken PetroChina 10 years to overcome the technical barriers of converting the oil extracted from the seeds to fuel that could power airplanes.

He said the trees that the seeds were harvested from were not planted on arable land, rather they were grown on mountain hills and wasteland.

According to him, tung trees can be grown on a total of 800 million mu (58.3 million hectares) of barren mountain hills in China. He said PetroChina had so far planted more than 1.2 million mu of the trees mainly in the provinces of Yunnan, Sichuan, and Jiangxi.

The company is expected to supply 60,000 tonnes of aviation gas produced from tung oil annually by 2014, according to Shen.

Biofuel is the only avaible alternative energy for commercial aviation, as electric, solar and nuclear power were not suitable for this purpose, Sun Li said.

Sun said that the large-scale use of biofuel might save the country's aviation industry from the shortage of crude oil.