At a joint press conference today, Lufthansa chairman and CEO Wolfgang Mayrhuber; Peter Hinze, Parliamentary State Secretary and Government Aerospace Coordinator; and Professor Dr. Johann-Dietrich Wörner, Chairman of the Executive Board of the German Aerospace Center (DLR), presented “burnFAIR”—a biofuel project developed by Lufthansa. The project is supported by the government and operates within the framework of its aviation research program aimed at underpinning the sustainability of air travel.
In April 2011, Lufthansa will begin a six-month trial with an Airbus A321 on scheduled commercial flights on the Hamburg-Frankfurt route. Pending certification, one of the aircraft’s engines will use a 50-50 mix of biofuel and traditional kerosene. The primary purpose of the project is to conduct a long-term trial to study the effect of biofuel on engine maintenance and engine life.
“During the six-month trial period, Lufthansa will save approximately 1,500 pounds of CO2 emissions,” Mayrhuber said in Berlin today, adding that Lufthansa would be the world’s first airline to conduct a long-term trial using biofuel during flight operations.
Peter Hintze, Parliamentary State Secretary at the Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology, said: “With its aviation research program (LUFO), the Federal Government is supporting the German aviation industry in its efforts to master the technological challenges of establishing a safe and sustainable air traffic system.”
“About 77 percent of LUFO funding is directly or indirectly related to the environment and sustainability,” he continued. "Only an integrated research approach such as this, practiced within research networks, offers the chance of achieving the ambitious climate protection objectives by 2020 and, simultaneously, safeguard the technological advances of the German aviation industry.”
The burnFAIR project, dedicated to the testing of biofuel, is an example of integrating research efforts for the purpose of achieving climate care objectives. This project is part of an overall “FAIR” initiative (Future Aircraft Research) in which issues such as new engine and aircraft concepts or other fuels (e.g. liquefied natural gas (LNG)) are under review. The Federal Government is contributing $6.5 million to the “FAIR” initiative. Of that total, $3.2 million is earmarked for the Lufthansa “burnFAIR” project.
Wörner concentrated on the project background at the Berlin press conference.
“Our “burnFAIR” project is designed to research the long-term alternatives to conventional aviation jet fuel. The objective is to gather data on biofuel pollutants in comparison with conventional kerosene, over a longer period. The measured pollution pattern related to various stresses during flight, and the composition of the exhaust gases, will allow us not only to draw conclusions about the compatibility of biofuel, but also about the maintenance needs of aircraft engines. We do expect a significant reduction in soot particles.”
Aside from the actual research project, the acquisition of biofuel in sufficient volume, and the complex logistics it involves, is proving a challenge in the time period leading up to the trial. The aircraft, for example, will only be fueled in Hamburg. Furthermore, numerous internal processes must be modified since Lufthansa does not normally deploy a plane exclusively on a single route, but always in a rotation chain on flights to different destinations. The project will cost Lufthansa an estimated $8.6 million.
“We know that biofuel is an issue we must address carefully. We can see the opportunities this fuel offers and give serious attention to the debate on the requisite raw materials, but we first want to acquire the experience of using biofuels in daily practice. We are pioneering this work in that no other airline to date has operated an aircraft engine with biofuel over a longer term,” observed Mayrhuber. “Our fuel is sustainable. No rain forest will be deforested for Lufthansa biofuel. In the procurement of the biofuel, we ensure that it originates from a sustainable supply and production process. Our licensed suppliers must provide proof of the sustainability of their processes."
Production of the bio-synthetic kerosene utilized by Lufthansa rests on the basis of pure biomass (Biomass to Liquid- BTL). The producer is Neste Oil, a fuel refining and marketing company from Finland that has years of experience in biofuel production and has cooperated with Lufthansa for many years. Certification of its biofuel is expected in March 2011.
The use of biofuel is one element in a four-pillar strategy aimed at reducing overall emissions in air traffic. Ambitious environmental goals can only be achieved in the future with a combination of various measures being implemented such as ongoing fleet renewal, operational measures such as engine washing and infrastructural improvements. Projects dedicated to these aforementioned themes are also underway under the aegis of the aviation research program. As a result of new technologies, Lufthansa has improved its fuel efficiency by 30 percent since 1991. Average fuel consumption per passenger has decreased to 1.14 gallons of kerosene over 62 miles.
For more information, visit www.lufthansa.com.