Wings Magazine

Porter Airlines’ Q400 to be flown in biofuel test

July 21, 2010, Farnborough, U.K. - For the first time, a Bombardier Q400 aircraft will be flown using fuel from an oilseed crop as part of a new biofuel test program.

July 21, 2010  By Carey Fredericks

A six-partner consortium, led by Saskatchewan-based Targeted Growth Canada (TGC), expects to demonstrate the emerging biofuel produced from camelina in a Porter Airlines Q400 turboprop by early 2012. Renewable fuel from camelina offers a real opportunity to reduce the environmental impact of commercial aviation by significantly reducing carbon lifecycle emissions.

The Bombardier Q400 aircraft is equipped with standard Pratt & Whitney Canada PW150A engines. Sustainable Oils, LLC and Honeywell's UOP will participate in the camelina biofuel test program on the Q400 aircraft along with TGC, Bombardier Aerospace, Porter Airlines Inc. and Pratt & Whitney Canada. TGC will work on crop optimization and growth, Sustainable Oils will pre-refine the camelina oil and Honeywell's UOP will produce the hydro-treated renewable jet (HRJ) biofuel from the oils provided.

Funding for the project is being provided by the partners as well as by Sustainable Development Technology Canada (SDTC), an arms-length, not-for-profit corporation created by the Government of Canada and Green Aviation Research & Development Network (GARDN).

"It's important for Canadian companies to take leadership roles in developing the next generation of environmentally-friendly business applications," said Robert Deluce, President and Chief Executive Officer of Porter Airlines. "Porter and our consortium partners recognize this, and are encouraged with the progress we're making on biofuel for aircraft."


"The Q400 aircraft is already one of the greenest regional aircraft in service around the world, and this test program provides Bombardier and the partners an opportunity to further the industry's biofuel efforts and ultimately help reach its emissions reduction targets," said Helene V. Gagnon, Vice President, Public Affairs, Communications and Corporate Social Responsibility, Bombardier Aerospace.

"There's no doubt that biotechnology will play a key role in developing long-term, sustainable and low-carbon fuel sources," said Tom Todaro, President, TGC. "But we can't do it alone. The close collaboration with the other key players in the value chain, including Bombardier Aerospace, Porter Airlines Inc. and Pratt & Whitney Canada, along with funding from SDTC and GARDN will help us accelerate the commercial availability and use of next generation biofuels."

"We have implemented new technologies to significantly reduce fuel consumption, environmental emissions and engine noise in our latest generation of engines and we are developing cutting-edge green technologies for the future," said Walter Di Bartolomeo, Vice President, Engineering, Pratt & Whitney Canada. "We are committed to testing alternative fuels, including second and third-generation biofuels, in an effort to reduce the environmental impact of our products."

"The aviation industry is coming under increased pressure to reduce its environmental footprint, and clean technologies will be key in achieving that goal," said Dr. Vicky Sharpe, SDTC President and CEO. "Funding at the development and demonstration stages is crucial for technologies like the one Targeted Growth Canada and its partners are working on to reach the market sooner, making them available to the industry."

"Biofuel is a key driver to achieve carbon-neutral growth and the introduction of low-carbon alternative fuels is of critical importance to the future growth of Canadian industry. GARDN has identified projects in biofuels as an important research theme that requires investment from both industry and government," said Claude Lajeunesse, Chairman of the Board of GARDN.

"The Government of Canada is committed to supporting clean energy technology through Sustainable Development Technology Canada," said the Honourable Tony Clement, Minister of Industry. "We will continue to work together with industry to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and build a more sustainable environment through investments in green infrastructure, energy efficiency, clean energy technologies and the production of cleaner energy and cleaner fuels."

Recognized for its potential as a biofuel and bio-lubricant, camelina is a member of the flowering plant family Brassicaceae, which also includes well-known species such as cabbage and cauliflower. The program objective is to optimize production and establish performance standards for refined camelina oil as a drop-in replacement for jet fuel that fits with the current refining and distribution infrastructure and with existing engines.

The process takes farmer-produced grain through crushing to a pre-refined vegetable oil. This crude camelina oil is then refined into HRJ. Camelina HRJ provides benefits over traditional petroleum fuel because it reduces greenhouse gas emissions by up to 80 per cent, reduces sulphur dioxide (SO2) and is not competitive with food production because it can be grown in rotation with wheat and on marginal land. The strategic benefit to farmers is that it allows them to drive additional revenue from acreage with a low-cost input crop with two end user markets – the oil for fuel and "meal" for livestock and dairy industries.


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