Monday, September 03, 2018

They flew jets on seed oil. Next stop is the kitchen

For eight years, a team of 20 scientists worked to convert the small black seeds of the jatropha plant into fuel to fire the engines of a jet plane. On August 27, their work at the verdant campus of Indian Institute of Petroleum (IIP) in Dehradun paid off. Three hundred and thirty kilos of bio-jet fuel developed from jatropha — a hardy plant with nearly 40% oil content — was partially used to propel a 45-minute SpiceJet flight from Dehradun to Delhi+ .

The IIP team took four days to extract this quantity of oil, which was used in the right engine of the plane. “Since this was a test flight, only 25% of bio-jet fuel was used and the rest was conventional aviation turbine fuel (ATF). International standards cap the use of bio-jet fuel at 50% in each engine,” says Dr Anjan Ray, director, CSIR-IIP.

Feedstock for bio-jet fuel can be obtained from 400 types of plant seeds. This initiative relied on jatropha as it was readily available from the Chhattisgarh Biofuel Development Authority. “Around 500 farmers from Maoist-hit villages grow this crop. It’s transforming their lives,” says Ray.
Planes use kerosene-based fuels, which are polluting. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and World Meteorological Organisation (WMO), air transport contributes to 4.9% of climate change. Burning biofuel also leads to emissions but they’re less toxic.
03/09/18 Shobita Dhar/Times of India