Qantas fuels A330 with recycled cooking oil

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An Australian airline said Friday it had found a sustainable alternative to aviation fuel that was more economical and efficient and cut an aircraft’s carbon emissions: recycled cooking oil.

Officials of Qantas airline said an Airbus A330 left Sydney for Adelaide on Friday using a 50-50 mixture of recycled cooking oil and regular jet fuel in what could have been the first biofuel commercial flight, according to reports culled from various wire agencies including the Australian Associated Press.

Flight captain Phil Davenport told reporters on arrival at Adelaide that the aircraft handled the same as any other.

“There was no real difference on the way over, apart from a a very slight reduction in the fuel flows on the engine that was using it, which basically means it was more economical and more efficient than the normal fuel,” Davenport said.

Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce said the Federal government had given the airline $500,000 to finance a study into the feasibility of alternative aviation biofuels, which the airline industry needed to face the immediate challenges ahead.

“We need to get ready for a future that is not based on traditional jet fuel, or frankly we don’t have a future,” Joyce said.

He said the use of biofuel was an important step in confronting the major challenge of high fuel prices and the aviation industry’s goal of being carbon-neutral by 2020.

“And it’s not just the price of oil that’s the issue. It’s also the price of carbon,” Joyce said.

“From July, Qantas will be the only airline in the world to face liabilities in three jurisdictions, so our sense of urgency is justified.”

Europe has started imposing a controversial carbon tax on airlines, while New Zealand has a carbon tax that applies to flights within the country by Qantas budget carrier Jetstar. Australia’s tax on carbon emissions comes into force on July 1.

Biofuels have been criticized for cutting into potential food supplies, but Qantas said it used a product that was not a food crop.

The oil was produced and refined in Houston, Texas, and shipped to Australia, but passengers were not made to pay surcharge, John Velastro of Qantas was quoted by the Australian Associated Press.

Qantas had also been working with other firms on alternative sources of aviation jet fuel made from algae or household waste, officials said.