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30 January 2018

First biofuel flight between US and Australia used mustard seeds

Qantas Airways achieved a world-first after completing the first ever US to Australia biofuels-fuelled flight managing to reduce carbon emissions by 7 percent.

Operated by a Boeing 787 aircraft, the 15-hour flight from Los Angeles to Melbourne took place on 29 Januarythis week and used 24,000kg of biofuels.

The Australian airline also achieved another first in terms of innovation: the blended biofuel used 10 percent of an emissions-free fuel derived from an industrial type of mustard called brassica carinata.

This particular mustard seed usually serves as a fallow crop, meaning that it can be cultivated by farmers between their regular crop cycles offering an alternative for when the soil needs rest.

Daniel Tan, a professor at the University of Sydney specialising in agriculture, explained: “Basically it’s good for growing, and farmers can also use it. If they grow wheat every year it’s not good for the soil. They can grow mustard seed in between the wheat crops, every second or third year, press the oil and use it locally or export it for use in aviation fuel”.

The process of making biofuels from mustard seeds was developed by the Canada-based Agrisoma Biosciences which specialises in this innovative biofuel. A spokeswoman from Qantas revealed that the airline is set to establish a bio-refinery in Australia in an extended partnership with Agrisoma in order to take full advantage of the crop potential.

Steve Fabijanski, Agrisoma CEO, said: “It grows where other crops won’t grow. It doesn’t need much water and it’s well understood by farmers. They can grow it and do well with it”.

Professor Tan added that the mustard seed crop will solve the important issue of security of supply: “A lot of the biodiesel now being processed is actually from waste oil from places like fish and chip shops”.

“A lot of these oils can be processed, but the problem is that they can’t get a consistent supply. The big problem with the biodiesel industry in Australia is mainly the continuity of supply”, he added.

Last October, Qantas announced that all its Los Angeles-based flights will be powered by biofuels from 2020 onwards after reaching a landmark agreement with US-based bio-energy company SG Preston. 

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