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Continental Airlines Operates its First Commercial Biofuel Flight

Travel News Asia Latest Travel News Podcasts Videos Tuesday, 8 November 2011

On Monday, Continental Airlines operated its first commercial flight powered by a blend of sustainable, advanced biofuel and traditional petroleum-derived jet fuel.

Solazyme, working with Honeywells UOP process technology, developed the algae oil that was refined into jet fuel to power the flight. Solazyme produced the worlds first 100% algae-derived jet fuel for both commercial and military applications.

Today, roughly four months since the approval of hydroprocessed renewable fuels in commercial aviation, we are excited to see the deployment of these fuels on a domestic U.S. flight, said Air Transport Association of America (ATA) Vice President and Chief Economist John Heimlich.

United has signed a letter of intent with Solazyme to negotiate the purchase of 20 million gallons of jet fuel per year, derived exclusively from algae oil, for delivery as early as 2014.

Solazyme, headquartered in south San Francisco, manufactured the algae oil used through its proprietary fermentation process. The end product was then refined outside Houston using renewable jet fuel processing technology from Honeywells UOP.

Looking at United, a company that understands the sustainability of tomorrow means environmental responsibility today, we see a true pioneer in the future of flight, said Jonathan Wolfson, Solazymes CEO. Solazyme is deeply committed to commercializing our renewable oil production technology, and were excited to be partnering with United on the first U.S. commercial biofuel flight.

How Biofuel Differs from Traditional Jet Fuel

Ensuring safe aviation use, the biofuel used on Mondays flight meets the ASTM International specification for bio-derived aviation fuels, approved in July 2011 and referred to as Hydroprocessed Esters and Fatty Acids (HEFA) fuel. HEFA fuels underwent rigorous testing and review by engine and airframe manufacturers, the U.S. military, the FAA and airlines. Solajet, powering this United flight, met the certification requirements established by the ASTM and approved by the FAA.

The biofuel delivers fuel safety and operational characteristics that are identical to conventional jet fuelbut cleaner. These advanced biofuels are drop-in replacements for petroleum-based fuel, requiring no modification to factory-standard engines or aircraft. The pilots operating the aircraft fly the plane in exactly the same way they do when flying an aircraft powered only by traditional jet fuel. Passengers on the flight will not see, feel or hear any difference in the aircraft.

Solajet is derived from Solazymes tailored oil production process using microbial algae that grow in fermenters by feeding on sugars from plants that have already harnessed the suns energy. Solazymes technology is biomass feedstock flexible and can be tailored to achieve customer needs in geographies throughout the world, allowing it to achieve cost parity, commercial scale and lifecycle environmental impact reduction.

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