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China’s first biofuel flight completes cross-ocean trip

Updated: Nov 23,2017 9:49 AM

A biofuel-powered plane owned by China’s Hainan Airlines completed a cross-ocean trip on Nov 21, making way for new “green” aircraft, which will help reduce the carbon emissions effectively while ensuring a secure and efficient flight.

The base component of the biofuel that supports the long-distance journey is familiar: waste cooking oil.

Hainan Airlines Flight 497, a Boeing 787 Dreamliner, took off from Beijing at 2:15 pm (0615 GMT) on Nov 21 and landed at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport at 12:05 pm (1805 GMT). The duration of the trip is roughly 11,297-kilometer, and it was the first China-US biofuel flight.

A biofuel flight has the performance standard similar to the flights fueled by aviation oil, said Sun Jianfeng, President of Hainan Airlines Co, and captain of the flight.

The sustainable fuel that supported the trip was produced from renewable resources, including coconut oil, palm oil, linseed oil, animal fat and waste cooking oil. Compared to traditional aviation kerosene, the biofuel reduces the emission of carbon dioxide by 50 to 80 percent. It was developed by Zhenhai Refining and Chemical Company, a subsidiary of China Petroleum & Chemical Corporation (Sinopec).

“These fuels today are very advanced. That is the future of sustainable fuels. They are not only effective from an environmental perspective, but they also are better from a technical perspective, and that is a big deal,” Darren Morgan, director of Sustainable Fuels Strategy at Boeing, said in an interview with CGTN.

“It is now a reality. It is not just an aspiration.”

It will still take some time before the biofuel is used at mega-scale.

According to the scientific technology department of Sinopec, the production of one ton of the biofuel requires three tons of wasted oil. The production cost of the biofuel is two to three times of the traditional fuel.

The mass usage of the biofuel, however, could be a trend due to its outstanding performance of emission reduction. The International Air Transport Association predicts that biofuel will account for 30 percent of the world’s aviation kerosene by 2030.

“Hainan Airlines wants to be one of the greenest airlines in the world, which is why we used biofuel this time,” Sun told CGTN.

“Today’s flight is special, but I hope that this will soon be a normal flight. That is my hope.”