Sure, we are all following the Swiss Solar Impulse 2, while the plane is circulating the world powered by solar, but while this is happening, the competition for eco-friendly air flights is growing rapidly. One of China’s largest airlines, Hainan Airlines, hurried up to show that they are 100% committed to the environment, and without compromising any safety or fuel efficiency rules, they completed a flight using biofuel from used cooking oil.
The company’s Boeing 737 Next Generation, flew from Shanghai to Beijing, carrying 100 passengers on board and piloted by the vice president of Hainan Airlines himself. The fuel was a 50:50 mix of conventional jet fuel and biofuel from cooking oil. The flight produced the incredible 80% less carbon dioxide emissions than any conventional kerosene-powered flight on this track.
This achievement is incredible, not only because China holds the second place on the world’s air travel market chart, just after the U.S..The market predictions indicate that in order to meet the country’s demands in the coming decades, China will have to spend more than $800 billion and purchase a minimum of 6,000 new aircrafts. Needless to say, powering all these will add a huge expense to all airline companies’ budgets. In this sense, tapping into the endless resource of left-over cooking oil from the billions of restaurants across the country, would be the ideal solution everyone is waiting for.
A pilot facility that has the capacity to convert as much as 650 liters of cooking oil into biofuel per day is already set up. It is owned by Boeing and the airplane manufacturer Commercial Airplane Corporation of China, and it is believed that it could produce up to 1.8 billion liters of biofuel per year.
Of course, as it is with any innovation, some people are very skeptical, and claim that the price will never be competitive with fossil fuels. Since 2011 when the first ever flight using biofuels was conducted by the Dutch KLM, only 1,500 flights have been powered by the eco-friendly alternative. To put this number in perspective, each day the world serves an average of 100,000 flights. In addition, skeptics question whether there will be a sufficient amount of used oil to produce the amounts of biofuel the companies are targeting.
Nevertheless, considering the impossible to regulate black market for gutter oil, the dangerous consequences of its consumption on human health, and of course the huge amount of emissions from conventional kerosene, I do believe that the process should be given a fair chance.
After all, people said the prices of solar would never be competitive with fossils, and look how that turned out.
Image (c) Wikipedia