Virgin to test aviation biofuels

Virgin Atlantic is to trial the use of biofuels on one of its aircraft in 2008 - the first airline to do so.

The demonstration, on a Boeing 747-400, will be conducted jointly with Boeing, engine manufacturer GE Aviation and Virgin Fuels. It hopes to run the plane on a blend of 40% biofuel and 60% kerosene.

Virgin Fuels was set up last year to invest in renewable energy projects and develop biofuels for trains and aviation (ENDS Report 381, p 7 ).

Boeing is currently testing eight biofuels to find one that meets efficiency criteria necessary for the trial. It would not provide details of what the fuels are made from or the processes used to make them.

There is considerable opposition to the use of biomass-derived synthetic kerosene to power aircraft from the aircraft manufacturing industry.

Last year, Rolls-Royce, giving evidence to a House of Commons Environment Committee inquiry on bioenergy, raised concerns about biofuels due to "safety, energy density, cost, global availability and environmental impact".

It questioned whether the environmental profile of biofuels would be better or worse than conventional kerosene (ENDS Report 381, p 52 ).

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