While the political debate about fossil fuels lurches backwards into the mid 20th century in Canberra, Qantas has taken a leading role among international carriers in making the switch to biofuels for its flights out of Los Angles from 2020.
Over the next ten years, the airline will purchase eight million gallons (30 million litres) of renewable jet fuel each year from US based bio-energy company, SG Preston. The fuel will be used by Qantas’ aircraft operating from Los Angeles Airport (LAX) to Australia and follows the Qantas Group’s successful domestic biofuel trial flights in 2012.
The fuel consists of 50 percent renewable jet fuel produced from non-food plant oils, blended with 50 percent traditional jet fuel. Compared to standard jet fuel, the biofuel emits half the amount of carbon emissions per gallon over its life cycle.
CEO of Qantas International and Freight, Gareth Evans said the commercial biofuel agreement is the first of its kind in Australian aviation history.
“The partnership with SG Preston is part of our commitment to lowering carbon emissions across our operations and sees us becoming the first Australian airline to use renewable jet fuel on an ongoing basis.
“As an airline group we are constantly looking for ways to become more fuel efficient and embrace new technologies and this partnership is a significant step on that journey.
“Our agreement with SG Preston allows us to secure a supply for our Los Angeles based aircraft where we have a large fuel demand and where the biofuel industry is more advanced.
“Through our biofuel program we are also exploring renewable jet fuel opportunities in Australia and continue to work with suppliers to develop locally produced biofuels for aviation use.”
Looking beyond the Qantas SG Preston deal, the opportunities it presents to keep air travel away from the rising levels of anxiety about fossil carbon driven climate charge will undoubtedly see such deals proliferate.
In some jurisdictions, this may be rendered financially rewarding by being linked into carbon trading schemes or tax credits.
Agreements of the size of this Qantas initiative are likely to be airport specific because in an ideal maximum efficiency arrangement the fuel will be made very close to where it will be loaded cutting out the costs in many cases of piping or tankering fossil carbon sourced fuel long distances from the point of extraction and then refinement.
Renewable jet fuel is chemically equivalent to, and meets the same technical, performance and safety standards as conventional jet fuel. SG Preston’s biofuel is produced from renewable plant oils, which do not compete with food production and which meet Qantas’ stringent sustainability certification requirements.
Qantas’ smaller national rival, Virgin Australia, has recently taken on a biojet distribution role at Brisbane Airport, with its own ambitious solar harvesting scheme aimed at reducing its costly dependence on coal fired power generated in Queensland.