Greener Skies Ahead as Airline Uses Fuel Made Partly From Tree Branches
Science| | By Matthew D'Onofrio
An airplane powered by tree branches – yes, tree branches – made it across the country successfully.
Seattle, WA’s Alaska Airlines has made history for flying the first commercial flight using the world’s first renewable jet fuel made by forest residuals.
On Monday, an Alaska Airlines flight traveled from Seattle-Tacoma International Airport to Regan National Airport in Washington, D.C., using fuel fashioned from the limbs and branches left by harvesting looked-after forests.
The fuel, made by Washington State University’s Northwest Advanced Renewables Alliance (NARA), is 1,090 gallons of 20 percent blend of sustainable aviation biofuel which is essentially the same as ordinary jet fuel, chemically-wise, yet has much less of an impact on the environment.
The effort by NARA, a five-year project launched in 2011 made up of organizations involved in the aviation industry, academia, and government laboratories, was made possible due to a $39.6 million grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture National Institute of Food and Agriculture.
“NARA’s accomplishments and the investment of the U.S. Department of Agriculture provide another key in helping Alaska Airlines and the aviation industry reduce its carbon footprint and dependency on fossil fuels,” said Alaska Airlines Senior Vice President of Communications and External Relations Joe Sprague at a news conference.
If this type of resource takes over 20 percent of the airline’s entire fuel supply, greenhouse gas emissions would be reduced by 142,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide which is equivalent to removing 30,000 passenger vehicles off the road for a year.