Melbourne: Australian airliner Qantas on Friday flew the country's first commercial biofuel flight between Sydney and Adelaide using a mix of conventional fuel and refined cooking oil.
John Valastro of Qantas said the flight this morning was a commercial first in Australia, and would have produced far less carbon emissions than if conventional jet fuel were used. "We're talking about a 60 per cent reduction in the overall life cycle of the fuel, so that's a substantial improvement," ABC News quoted him as saying.
The biofuel component of the fuel used for the flight was from refined cooking oil.
The report said Friday's flight has cost more than four times an equivalent flight using normal fuel, partly because of the shipping distance involved since the fuel came from Houston.
Qantas said it absorbed the one-off cost because it was keen to highlight the need for an Australian biofuel source, at a time when airlines and passengers around the world are dealing with high jet fuel and carbon emission costs.
Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce said that the Federal Government had given the airline 500,000 dollars to fund a study into the feasibility of alternative aviation biofuels. Joyce said establishing a sustainable aviation fuel industry was necessary given the immediate challenges ahead. "We need to get ready for future that is not based on traditional jet fuel or frankly we don't have a future," he said.
"And it's not just the price of oil that's the issue - it's also the price of carbon. From July, Qantas will be the only airline in the world to face liabilities in three jurisdictions, so our sense of urgency is justified," he added.
Federal Energy Minister Martin Ferguson said Qantas will investigate the production and commercial viability of sustainable aviation fuel in Australia with two key objectives.
Firstly, a feed stock pathways study that will assess the long term viability of biofuels feed stock and supply chain pathways.
"Secondly, a refining and distribution capacity study to investigate how Australia as a nation can use existing refinery plants and fuel distribution infrastructure for aviation biofuel production," Ferguson said.
Biofuels are sometimes criticised for cutting into potential food supplies but Qantas says it has used a product that is not a food crop.
The oil came from and was refined in Houston before it was shipped to Australia.