First biofuel-powered test flight another milestone for China

October 31, 2011
Air China PetoChina aviation biofuel

In a first for the country Air China and Boeing, along with energy partners, have conducted China's first sustainable biofuel flight. The one-hour flight from Beijing Capital International Airport highlights the viability of using sustainable aviation biofuel sourced in China.

The trial was part of a Sino-US energy co-operation program and marked a milestone in the two countries' joint efforts regarding biofuel and high technology, said William Zarit, minister counselor for commercial affairs at the US embassy.

Air China recently became the first Chinese airline member of the Sustainable Aviation Fuel Users Group.

"Through our collaborative efforts with China we have found an incredible partner and place where national capability, innovation and technology come together in a remarkable way," said Boeing China President Marc Allen. "This historic flight illustrates exactly how bilateral collaboration can help address environmental challenges, and we commend the Chinese for their leadership in helping to develop sustainable aviation solutions."

PetroChina, working with Honeywell's UOP, sourced and refined the China-grown, jatropha-based biofuel used for the flight aboard a Boeing 747-400 powered by Pratt & Whitney engines. 13.1 tons of 50/50 blend of biofuel and conventional Jet A1 fuel were used to power one of airliner's engines during the flight, while the over three ran on the conventional fuel.

Air China and Boeing are already working plans for an international flight between the U.S. and China fueled by sustainable biofuel, which will highlight increasing co-operation on renewable energy development between the two countries.

According to China Daily PetroChina has been PetroChina has been grown jatropha on  80,000 hectares oflow-quality farmland in Southwest China's Sichuan and Yunnan provinces since 2007. It plans to build a refinery by 2014 to produce 60,000 tons of aviation biofuel annually but concedes that this is a trivial amount compared to the the estimated 28 million tons of aviation China will use annually by 2015. The company is reported to be looking for more places to grow jatropha in order to increase output.

China's National Energy Administration (NEA) and Boeing also announced an agreement for further study of regional biofule development. The study results will help support future efforts to establish a sustainable aviation biofuels industry in China.

China's Civil Aviation Administration of China has committed to a 22 percent reduction in carbon emissions from aviation, compared to 2005 levels, by 2020, making development of an aviation biofuel industry a critical national objective.

Before China's first trial flight using a biofuel, airlines including Virgin Atlantic Airways, Air New Zealand, Continental Airlines and Japan Airlines, have been conducting similar trials since 2008, using fuel refined from a range of renewable sources, including coconut oil, algae, waste cooking oil and jatropha.


This year, carriers including KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, Lufthansa and Mexico's Interjet carried out commercial flights powered by biofuel blends.