Qantas to make significant greenhouse gas savings on mustard seed oil

Posted on: 09/02/2018

Australian airline becomes first to complete trans-pacific flight from LA to Melbourne using biofuel from mustard seeds.

At the end of 2017, the Australian flag carrier Qantas announced a deal with a Canadian refinery to power some of the aircraft in their fleet with biofuel from a non-food, industrial type of mustard seed.

The long-term goal is to grow the crop on 400,000 hectares in Australia to produce more than 200 million litres of bio jet fuel and replace 30 to 50 per cent of the airline’s annual fuel needs.

Last month, Qantas became the first airline to complete a flight between Australia and the US using a blended biofuel derived from mustard seeds, resulting in a 7% reduction in carbon emissions.

The fuel used for the 15-hour scheduled passenger service from Los Angeles to Melbourne, was made using the brassica carinata crop (Ethiopian mustard). A major benefit of using this type of plant is that it can be grown on fallow land, in between regular crop cycles. Good news for farmers too.

It’s big news for the industry, which is under pressure to deliver more sustainable fuels in a global bid to reduce carbon emissions and clean up the air. There are, of course, other benefits that the industry is looking to capitalise on, including boosting corporate social responsibility and enhancing brand values. It has become a competition in its own right to be a trailblazer and leader in this field.

Back on home soil and last year, the Government consulted on revisions to the Renewable Transport Fuel Obligation Order (RTFO) to include development fuel for aviation. The Government aims to increase the ‘blend level’ of renewable fuels in petrol and diesels from 4.75% to 9.75% by 2020, rising to 12.4% in 2032. A sub-target for aviation (development) fuel is proposed, set at 0.1% in 2019 to 2.8% in 2032. Waste-based feedstocks will be incentivised whilst blends using crop-based feedstocks will decline to 2% in 2032.

Michelle Carter leads KTN‚Äôs Sustainable Aviation Fuel Special Interest Group (SAF SIG). ‚ÄúWe are working with UK aviation industry to support them achieve the 0.7 million tonnes per annum production by 2030 target. In the UK, we are a limited land-mass so the challenge is to understand what sustainable feedstocks we can use, and maybe non-food crop feedstocks are part of the solution. Certainly, waste streams are the nearest opportunity. KTN has a broad sector knowledge and is best placed to stimulate business collaboration and scientific innovation to enable those industry targets to be a reality.”


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