Clear The Air News Blog Rotating Header Image

November 13th, 2011:

Qantas plans bio-fuel flight

November 14, 2011 – 4:08PM

Qantas ... short-term pain for long-term gain.

Qantas is looking to a more environmentally friendly future.

Qantas will run Australia’s first commercial flight powered by sustainable fuel, CEO Alan Joyce has told an aviation conference in Brisbane today.

“In early 20102, Qantas plans to operate a commercial flight powered by sustainable fuel,” Mr Joyce said.

“This is by no means the first bio-fuel flight, but it will be first flight of its kind in Australia.”

This year, Qantas signed agreements with two leading manufacturers of sustainable aircraft fuel.

Solazyme is working with algae-based aviation fuels and Solena is experimenting with water-based fuels.

“We want the flight to be an inspiration, a preview of a sustainable future for Australian aviation,” Mr Joyce said.

“This country certainly has the human capital, the finance and the resources to be a global leader in bringing new kinds of aviation fuel to market.”

In his keynote address to the Australian Airports Association Conference in Brisbane this morning, Mr Joyce said Qantas was improving fuel efficiency by 1.5 per cent each year.

“Through a strategy that includes fleet renewal, new technology, fuel optimisation, and reducing resources,” he said.

“While these initiatives can achieve significant improvements, only the production of sustainable aviation fuel on a commercial basis can deliver a generational step in emissions reduction.”

In July this year, Virgin boss Richard Branson also told conference delegates in Brisbane that Virgin was exploring the use of eucalyptus oil from gum trees as an aviation fuel.

Virgin’s plans to have an Australian-based testing facility in place in 2013 and a “commercial” scale production facility in place by 2014.

Mr Joyce’s visit today to Brisbane coincided with a protest at the city’s airport by Qantas workers concerned about airline’s push to use contract workers.

Australia’s top labour tribunal, Fair Work Australia, has ordered the airline to reach an agreement with unions representing its long-haul pilots, licensed aircraft engineers, baggage handlers and catering staff.

Following months of negotiations and employee industrial action, the labour dispute climaxed on October 29, when Qantas announced it would lock out workers and ground its fleet.

The federal government called on Fair Work Australia to step in, which terminated workers’ industrial action. The federal government supported the decision.

The Australian Licensed Aircraft Engineers Association last week launched a challenge in the Federal Court against the ban, but Mr Joyce is confident they won’t win.

“I’m not losing any sleep,” he said.

“I think the government have made themselves very clear that the pilot action, they don’t believe, is going to get through.

“The government believes that their case is robust, that the pilots’ action isn’t going to make any difference.”

However, he said talks would continue with the unions over this weekend before Monday’s deadline of the 21-day “action-free” period set by Fair Work Australia.

And Mr Joyce flagged a fresh focus on the domestic travel sector.

In response to questions this morning, Mr Joyce said Australia’s “fly-in fly-out” market was “top of the radar screen” for Qantas domestic market.

He said 10 new aircraft would be directed to meeting the “fly-in, fly-out” jobs market generated by Queensland’s resources boom.

“In a big capital commitment we will have 10 additional aircraft over the next 18 months to build up our core presence in that sector,” Mr Joyce said.

He said Qantas was now talking to all mining companies in the sector, including industry giants BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto.

“We can offer incentives for the fly-in, fly-out business accounts. A lot of those miners are members of the Qantas Club,” he said.

Mr Joyce said it gave Qantas the ability leverage discounted flights for central Queensland’s “fly-in, fly-out market.”

“So we see this as a segment that Qantas is interested in maximising its share in and we are investing very heavily in people and aircraft and resources,” Mr Joyce said.

“We believe it will be extremely profitable as we go forward.

“And it is very much top of our radar screen in the domestic market.”

Qantas is planning to invest $5.3 billion in the next two years, with “75 to 80 per cent” dedicated to fleet upgrades.

On Wednesday, Qantas will mark 91 years of commercial aviation by putting on show one of its 787 Dreamliners at Sydney and Melbourne.

– with AAP

Read more:

Hydrogen bus launched on London tourist route

UK’s first permanent hydrogen bus described as ‘stepping stone’ to rolling out the clean technology across the country

Description: London Hydrogen Bus

The hydrogen bus being trialled on the RV1 route in London last year. Photograph: Alamy

The UK’s first permanent hydrogen bus will be launched on a popular tourist route in London today. Seven more hydrogen buses will be added to the RV1 route – which takes in Covent Garden, the Tower of London and the South Bank – by mid-2011.

The initiative, which follows a trial of three hydrogen buses in the capital between 2003 and 2007, has been described as a “stepping stone” to rolling out the technology across the country. The launch will also coincide with the opening of the UK’s largest hydrogen refuelling station in Leyton, east London.

The new bus, which was designed specially for London, will begin carrying passengers tomorrow. It produces water vapour from its tailpipe and can operate for more than 18 hours without needing to refuel.

“These are the next generation of hydrogen fuel cell hybrid buses that were designed and developed based on the findings of our trial,” said David Edwards, a spokesperson for Transport for London. “We will be closely assessing the performance of these buses and the new technology they use. Should the buses prove reliable and suitable for the needs of London we could consider extending the fleet.”

The buses contain batteries that can store electricity generated by the hydrogen fuel cell – a device that combines hydrogen and oxygen to produce power and water as a by-product – in addition to energy generated during the braking process. As a result, they can travel much farther than the ones trialled in London as part of the EU-sponsored Cute – Cleaner Urban Transport for Europe – project in 2003. The new buses were designed by the consortium of businesses that furnished Vancouver with a fleet of 39 buses in 2009. “The main difference is that those buses were designed to withstand temperatures below -20C,” said David Hart, a hydrogen fuel expert based at Imperial College who was involved in Cute.

More than 4,300 deaths are caused in London by poor air quality every year, costing around £2bn a year. The new buses will go some way towards tackling this dire problem, says Hart. “All that comes out of these buses is water vapour, so you don’t get all of the nasty nitrogen oxides, sulphur oxides and particulate matter that diesel buses pump out into the air.” The buses may also reduce carbon emissions – but only if the hydrogen they run on is generated using renewable electricity rather than electricity produced by burning coal, he said.

One key hurdle to rolling out the buses across the UK is cost – but Edwards is optimistic that the situation will improve soon. “This technology is currently very new, with these buses being designed to suit the London operating environment. As such, with development costs, these buses are typically more expensive than their traditional hybrid diesel counterpart. But as the technology is proven along with the environment benefits they bring, the commercial market for these buses should open up and we expect the costs to drop dramatically,” he said.

London is one of a handful of cities around the world to adopt hydrogen buses. In May 2003, Madridbecame the first city in the world to run a regular hydrogen bus service. Hamburg, Perth and Reykjavik quickly followed suit. Berlin’s Clean Energy Partnership project, which began in 2006, aims to put 14 hydrogen buses and 40 hydrogen cars on the road by 2016. The largest hydrogen project in the world – the Hydrogen Highway – is based in California and has so far built 30 refuelling stations. In December 2009, Amsterdam also launched Nemo H2, a tour boat powered by hydrogen.