Carrier Emirates test flies Boeing 777 on sustainable fuel

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) – Long-haul airline Emirates successfully flew a Boeing 777 on a test flight Monday, with one of its two engines running entirely on so-called sustainable aviation fuel. This is happening as transport companies around the world are trying to reduce their carbon footprint.

Flight 2646 flew over the coast of the United Arab Emirates for just under an hour after taking off from Dubai International Airport, the world’s busiest for international travel, and departing for the Arabian Gulf before circling for a landing. The second of the aircraft’s General Electric Co. engines ran on conventional jet fuel for safety reasons.

“This flight is a milestone for Emirates and a positive step for our industry as we work together to address one of our biggest challenges – reducing our carbon footprint,” said Adel al-Redha, Emirates Chief Operation Officer, in a Explanation.

Emirates, a state-owned airline under Dubai’s ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, described the sustainable fuel as a blend “that reflects the properties of jet fuel”. It contained fuel from Neste, a Finnish company, and Virent, a Madison, Wisconsin-based company.

Virent itself uses plant-based sugars to create the compounds needed for sustainable jet fuel, while Neste’s fuel is derived from vegetable oils and animal fats. These fuels reduce the release of heat-trapping carbon dioxide typically burned by engines in flight.

According to the World Resources Institute, a Washington-based nonprofit research group, aviation emits only one-sixth the amount of carbon dioxide produced by cars and trucks. However, planes are used by far fewer people each day – meaning aviation is a higher per capita source of greenhouse gas emissions.

Plane and engine manufacturers have been developing more efficient models, in part to keep jet fuel costs down – one of the biggest expenses for airlines. Emirates, for example, consumed over 5.7 million tonnes of jet fuel last year alone, costing the company $3.7 billion of its $17 billion annual spend.

But analysts believe sustainable fuels can be three or more times the cost of jet fuel, likely pushing ticket prices even higher when aviation resumes after lockdowns during the coronavirus pandemic.

It wasn’t immediately clear how much the fuel used in Monday’s Emirates test cost per barrel. Jet fuel averaged $146 a barrel late last week, according to S&P Global Platts.

The United Arab Emirates, a major oil producer and OPEC member, will host the next United Nations climate talks, or COP28, which begin in November. The Federation of the Seven Sheikhdoms has already been criticized for nominating the CEO of Abu Dhabi’s state oil company to chair the UN negotiations, known as the Conference of the Parties – where COP takes its name.


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