Air New Zealand and Boeing are secretly working to create the world’s first green aviation fuel, made of wild algae. The fuel is essentially derived from bacterial pond scum created through the photosynthesis of sunlight and carbon dioxide on nutrient-rich water sources such as sewage ponds.The company providing the biofuel is Aquaflow Bionomic Corporation. If the project pans out the small and relatively new New Zealand company could lead the world in environmentally sustainable aviation fuel.
Air New Zealand would most likely test the fuel on one engine while normal aviation fuel would drive the other engine. Fuel is held in cells on the aircraft that can be directed to a specific engine.
None of the parties involved will talk about the joint venture development because of confidentiality agreements but whispers about the project were circulating at the roll-out of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner in Seattle in the US last week.
Local Marlborough media reported a visit by Boeing to Aquaflow earlier this year and Boeing has stated publicly since then that it believes algae is the airline fuel of the future.
Virgin Fuels announced in April it was working with Boeing to demonstrate biofuel in a 747-400. The focus is on testing algae-derived jet fuel, especially its freezing point.
Boeing’s Dave Daggett was reported this year as saying algae ponds totalling 34,000 square kilometres could produce enough fuel to reduce the net CO2 footprint for all of aviation to zero.
Until now the relatively new Blenheim company’s focus has been on biodiesel for cars, trucks, buses and boats.
English Environment Minister David Parker drew public attention to the company in December when he test drove a Land Rover around that was powered by Aquaflow’s blend of algae biofuel and diesel (5% algae fuel and 95% conventional fuel) just a year after it was developed.