back to article Biofuel 2.0 gets off ground in Kiwi airliner trial

Air New Zealand has announced that its planned airliner biofuel test will be carried out using biodiesel made from jatropha nuts. Jatropha plants, able to survive in deserts, could offer a biofuel source which would not compete with food production or drive deforestation. "Air New Zealand is absolutely committed to being at …


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  1. Wonderkid

    Finally, some good news!

    And why not plant these nuts in Saudi too? It's quite deserty there too, hmm?

  2. TeeCee Gold badge

    This could be interesting.

    Many times at startup I've smelled a goodly whiff of freshly burned fuel drifting down the cabin.

    In the future this should flush out all those on board with nut allergies before takeoff so that I can eat my complimentary peanuts in peace.

  3. Spinner99

    Savior or outback terror?

    Something would have to change before large scale cultivation of Jatropha is a goer in Oz. In a sizable part of the country (WA) it's a prohibited noxious weed.


    Much of the desert hosts a very fragile ecosystem, and I can just imagine the howls of protest from the greenies once some crusader starts hawking photos of dead <insert cute marsupial species here> with a plantation (probably owned by big oil) in the background. Can't imagine the graziers would be too happy either - it is highly toxic.

  4. Graham Jordan

    Very good but..

    How long before some sandle wearing leaf eater rants about how growing crops destroys Earth's natural diversity.

    "But you're destroying the side winder snakes natural habbitat! Stop flying planes... murderer!"

    Which actually makes a good point, how many hippys do you reckon it would take churned up to fuel a 747???

  5. Simon Neill

    They all laughed....

    ...when I bought up the Sahara desert! well WHO'S LAUGHING NOW?

  6. Michael C

    not so good news....

    Well, if it sounds too good to be true, it usually is.

    1 - plants don't start bearing seeds until 2nd year, commercial harvesting can't begin until 3rd year

    2 - produces, at maximum with proper manual pruning, good soil conditions, and lack of drought (it can SURVIVE drought, but does not GROW in drought), about 500Kg of seend, which will make about 150KG of oil, or in other words, less than 50 gallons per acre per year...

    3 - requires approx 2Kg compost per sq/foot, and in desert soil, would require massive amounts of nitrogen fertilisers and other nutirients that we are actually dangerously low on, and may soon (30 years) run out of world wide without finding ways to mass produce.

    4 - they grow in deserts, but require MANUAL prunings... can't be done by machine, so where are you going to find enough people to prune 1.5 million hectares of plants in a desert environment? ...and that just covers the airlines, not cars, trucks, and power generation

    5 - the plant produces more than 5 toxic residues during oil extraction that would be an environmental hazard we'd have to deal with.

  7. carbonrough
    Thumb Up

    This should float a jumbo ...

    ... and no, its not yer stoner stuff.

  8. Anonymous Coward


    Hectares or square kilometres? Make your mind up!

    Mines the one with the 4 inch by 12 cm pockets.

  9. lucmars

    Following Micheal C

    He's right and the reasonment from Kiwi Airline is a hypocrisy : a plant which can grow in a desert doesn't mean that one cannot cultivate it elsewhere, hence that doesn't prevent any deforestation. In fact, the market drives the production around the world.

  10. Anonymous Coward

    What great news

    Now that the world is running short of food and the demand for food is increasing, (hence the rising price and shortages of rice) we can devote huge tracts of land that are currently used to produce food, to produce fuel instead.

    It won't be in deserts, there will be government subsidies to grow it everywhere.

    Way to go!

  11. The Prevaricator

    oil grows on trees?

    Next you'll be telling us it falls out of the sky too...

    Is it me, or is it becoming increasingly obvious these so-called saviours are too good to be true? Of course it doesn't grow in fully-fledged desert. Nothing does really, which is why they are so empty and sandy. Nature has learnt this after several billion years of trying.

    If the west is that desperate for so-called greener and non-oil based solutions to long-haul transportation, why can't some big research-based companies look into such gems as the hydrogen-fuelled tube vehicle:

    /gets coat. The one with the oil-tight sealant-lining and attached waders.

  12. heystoopid
    Thumb Up

    Now where did I see the last place that used synthetic fuel and oils

    Now where did I see the last place that used synthetic fuels and oils . of whom one of the greedy seven sisters grabbed a majority of patents and copyrights of processes involved from a certain Chemical Plant Giant of a corporation as war reparations and then stripped of all it's assets in a beleaguered but now since reformed country in central Europe in 1945 !

    Life moves in the same endless mobius loop it seems !

  13. BillPhollins
    Thumb Up


    I've seen the future, and it's blimp shaped.

  14. Tony Reeves
    Thumb Down

    As a Loyal Kiwi...

    If I have the chance to fly over 12 hours with only the pacific under me, give me kero any day, rather than bio fuel.

  15. Spoonguard

    There is very little desert in New Zealand

    and what little there is, is too cold and too dry

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    "There are 1.4 million square kilometres of deserts in Oz, enough to fuel a hundred airlines the size of ANZ if they were all covered in jatropha plants."

    How do you cover an airline in jatropha plants?

  17. Robert Heffernan

    Maybe greener with less research....

    "why can't some big research-based companies look into such gems as the hydrogen-fuelled tube vehicle:"

    I read some place that if you took a TransRapid Maglev train (, stuck it in a tube with the air pumped out so that the pressure in the tube was equivalent to being at an altitude of 30,000ft the train would easily be capable of 1,500km/h+ and it's purely electrically based.

    No need to have a tube loaded full of explosive hydrogen. No tanks full of highly reactive pure oxygen. No need to develop aerostatic hydrogen bearings. No massive power-hog water splitting plants to get your massive quantities of hydrogen and oxygen.

    The upside of the maglev train system is that in an emergency, all you need to do is blow some safety covers on the tube to allow it to re pressurize to normal atmospheric air pressure, eliminating the need to vent massive quantities of hydrogen. If there is a major failure in the train (train wreck) then you don't risk a Hindenberg type disaster.

    You can also line the outside of the maglev's tube with solar panels to provide power generation for the system reducing or eliminating the use of any non-green forms of power generation.

    Then the fact that the maglev is a proven technology with systems in service around the world, and not a "Hindenberg-in-a-can" theoretical system, should make this the much better option.

    Mines the one made of kevlar with the nomex outer lining, and breathing apparatus.

  18. Martin Budden

    not a solution

    One of the key reasons for current high food prices is continued drought in Australia reducing wheat and rice harvests (Australia is a huge exporter of both). These nuts survive drought but don't grow in drought... so while the wheat and rice aren't growing, the nuts are not growing either.

  19. Tim Brown

    I for one...

    ...welcome the first 747 to fall out of the sky and land in my garden.

  20. Goat Jam

    Celluose is the answer

    Tonnes of the stuff is wasted everyday, it is the most abundant bio material on the planet . Only problem is turning it into a viable fuel source. oops.

    Good article over at Wired;

  21. The Prevaricator

    @ Robert Heffernan

    Since air is a fairly ideal gas (particularly if you vastly reduce the pressure), the speed of sound is governed largely by temperature. As any avionic expert knows, you are going to encounter large inefficiencies running near or in excess of the speed of sound.

    In air, for the speed of sound to increase above 1500 km/h, one would have to hike up the temperatures well in excess of 160 deg C, whereas in hydrogen, the speed of sound is already 4740 km/h even at room temperature. It is therefore much more efficient to fly through hydrogen at 1500 km/h, and you wouldn't be creating such great mechanical stresses as a sonic boom in a confined area.

    Also, large Hydrogen pipelines already exist. They are safe. One of these tube vehicles running the breadth of the USA would require less than 1% of our annual hydrogen output. Keeping the pressure constantly a jot above atmospheric would mean that it is easy to detect any leaks externally, and no high-integrity seals or engineering would be necessary, unlike the high-vacuum tube case. Oh, and you can easily power all the electrolysers you want to produce your low pressure hydrogen using the solar cells you mentioned coating the tube (neat idea, if I may say so).

    Sure, a maglev train in a vacuum tube is possible now without much research, but if one is to look more than a few years ahead, there are massive running cost cuts attained with the hydrogen tube vehicle.

  22. Anton Ivanov

    Re: Savior or outback terror?

    In other words the Australian cattle farmer lobby is much more powerful than any green fuel lobbies. I am placing a 8:1 bet that if petrol reaches 250$+ a barrel the WA administration will do a U-turn on tiptoe and tell the cattle farmer lobby to go sod off.

  23. Perpetual Cyclist
    Thumb Down

    Aviation is already in meltdown...

    Every major airline is cutting services. Several small ones have gone bankrupt in the last month.

    The world is facing peak oil, and no amount of biofuels will make up the decline in supply. Oil jumped a record $14/barrel on Friday. Ten years ago oil WAS $14/barrel.

    Biofuels will not save mass aviation, but they might be the final nail in the coffin for the world's rainforests.

  24. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    algae, eh ?

    So that is why they're fishing the sea until there's no fish left !

    Once the oceans are covered in algae, we will have enough biofuel for everyone. Then, of course, we'll have biofuel wars on the high seas, where there is no territorial jurisdiction. And the US, with its impressive fleets, will be masters of the stuff.

    Although we won't have any more fishsticks, but that's a drawback that the soy bean industry will certainly solve in some (rather unsavory) way.

  25. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    Peak oil ?

    Bollocks. We haven't BEGUN to see peak oil yet, you're just saying that because it has never been so expensive.

    I'm sorry, but the current oil industry has been tailored for around 1 billion individuals (The Americas, Europe, small part of Africa and some of the Eastern Asia area).

    China is now in the process of adding 10 million new drivers a year. India is not far behind. Both countries have over a billion citizens.

    So the oil industry has to adapt from 1 to 3 billion customers.

    Peak oil ? Pah ! We ain't there yet. Not by a long shot.

    Can you say €6/liter ? Start trying.

  26. Perpetual Cyclist

    @Pascal Monett

    Not sure what you're saying. Peak oil is physical reality. Agreed we haven't begun to feel the full economic implications yet, but we will, probably in the next two years. Sure China is building 10M extra cars a year, but if they can't pump or buy the oil, then they aren't going to be driven very far.

    Oil represented about 1% of global GDP ten years ago. At $130 it represents 6.5%. About half this price is the real cost of developing new oil fields and pumping old ones, the rest is profit which is (to a large extent) recycled into the larger economy. It simply means the rich get richer whilst the poor get poorer.

    The oil price is rising hyperbolically (faster than exponentially). So is the real cost of new oil production. Once (real) total energy costs reach about 15% of GDP, modern industrial civilisation becomes untenable. At current rate of increase, we reach that point in under two years. The price of oil cannot then increase further (in real terms - ignoring hyperinflation). The world economy MUST then shrink in line with the oil supply. All business as usual economic models then become invalid. Total financial collapse is inevitable.

  27. Trevor Pott Gold badge
    Dead Vulture

    @Perpetual Cyclist, also: rant

    You're such a cheery, uplifting type. Great bedtime reading.

    My understanding of peak oil is that peak oil is the point where we have reached the maximum barrels/day that this planet will ever produce, and from there on in, production will only decline. As production declines, and demand grows, of course, prices will rise, and we are know...

    Have we reached peak oil though? I don't know about that. In fact, I honestly doubt it. (Full disclosure, I live in a province with one of he largest reserves of oil in the world, and our economy is overheating trying to get it all out of the ground yesterday.) I think we have a ways yet to go on peak oil, not because there are more reserves than stated, or because demand will fall, but because more and more money and talent is being put into exploiting the last remaining reserves on earth.

    The debate is academic, really, because nobody, regardless of what they say, honestly knows the production values of every oil company on earth even over the past ten years, let alone into the future. (So many lies have been told, and figured fudged humanity may never know the true tale.) That said, let me paint a different picture:

    I believe that we still have at least a decade, maybe more of rising production, as new technologies come on-stream, and we simultaneously run every reserve dry in our quest for that last, final drop. When that peak is crested, however, there will be no gradual economic slowdown, not even a "depression" like the early 20th century. The curve won't be bell shaped, it will reach a peak, and then plummet. With 10, 20, maybe even 30 years ahead of us, my dad, the elder Bush family, that whole generation can die happy, never having seen the hell that they hath wrought.

    I, on the other hand, by the time I am their age, will probably survive just long enough to be killed by a friend or neighbour for food, water, or gasoline. It hurts my green, left-leaning soul to say this, but...environmentalism is a huge, tragic mistake. Certainly, pollution, renewable energy, happy pandas and environmental toxins matter, and they are important. The harsh, harsh truth, however, is that the money going towards everything except solving the growing food crisis, population boom, and finding new, renewable sources of energy is a tragic waste that could well be the doom of us all.

    We need to stop having so many babies. We need to find food to feed those we've got, and by the gods, we need to save every last precious drop of oil we have, because there so very, very many things that we make out of it that we have absolutely no (viable) way of making any other way. An example? Plastics. We can recycle only so hard. Certain plants can be used to make plastics, (that involves quite a bit of hocus pocus, from what I understand,) but it would never meet even the smallest fraction of demand. Having a healthy, green earth won't do us any good if we wipe ourselves trying to control the last remaining resources on earth. And if we DO get to wiping ourselves out, after a few thousand years, those who (might) survive should have a healthy, green earth...with no oil.

    Now of course, these are opinions based entirely on my personal paranoia, research on the internets, and via a few interesting scientific journals, and a healthy dose of alarmism, but they may yet be valid. Your mileage may, of course, vary.

    Dead vulture, because I'm probably allready to old to survive the looming resource wars.

  28. jeanl

    still thinking inside the box, going nowhere but merry go around.

    Time to think outside the box, thing of magnet power, wind dynamic power, and water power.

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