SpiceJet Operates India’s First Biofuel Driven Flight
SpiceJet propelled India’s very first Biofuel driven flight using a blend of Jatropha seeds and turpentine fuel on Monday. 75% aviation turbine fuel and 25% bio-jet fuel empowers the 72 seater aircraft. The Aircraft took off from Dehradun and landed at the Delhi’s Indra Gandhi International airport. The 43-minute flight was operated by SpiceJet’s Bombardier Q-400 aircraft with 20 officials and five crew members onboard. This success is expected to pave the way for cheaper air travel. Also, the use of agricultural residues, bio-degradable fractions of industrial and municipal wastes is bound to make the air travel cleaner and more efficient.
Elated by the successful test, SpiceJet Chairman and Managing Director, Ajay Singh said on Monday, “Today’s flight was a technological demonstration that bi0-jet fuel can be used in flights. It has the potential to reduce fuel costs by 15-20%,”
Minister for Road Transport and Highways, Nitin Gadkari expressed, “A policy will soon be framed on bio-jet fuel for the aviation industry and placed before the Cabinet.” Mr Gadkari further added, “Inedible oil seeds like Jatropha have low per acre productivity and there is a need to use biotechnology to enhance yields”
Manufacturing The Fuel
Developing this indigenous fuel has not been easy by any means. Council for Scientific and Industrial Research based in Dehradun along with Indian Institute of Petroleum (IIP) had taken on this task nearly eight years ago and was tested rigorously to ensure safety. This project started almost immediately after drawing inspiration from the Virgin Atlantic Biofuel Flight, the first airline to fly with biofuel.
It was in 2010, nearly 2 years after its inception when the project saw some progress as the engineers and scientists started producing few litres of biofuel per month in the laboratory. The first major breakthrough in developing the fuel came in 2011 when the fuel was recognised by American Standard for Testing and Material and received a patent as well. By 2013, it was tested in a Pratt and Whitney engine in Canada.
Anjan Ray, Director, Institute of Petroleum, revealed, “We produced 430 litres of HEFA bio jet fuel in four days and took a month to test it for today’s flight. We have the requisite technology, which is ready to be transferred for use by oil refineries for mass scale production”.
This progress came like a beacon of light at a time when constantly soaring aviation prices are hindering the finances of the domestic airlines. “The government will make an environment-friendly aviation action plan till 2035”, Civil Aviation Minister Suresh Prabhu said.
With the recent turn of events, it is safe to say that India can now join a few other countries like the US and Australia who have their own biofuel-operated commercial aircraft.