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Friday, 13/12/2018, 15:20:12 PM
Airline claims first with gas
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Qatar Airways on Monday said it had put paying passengers on a flight powered by fuel made from natural gas for the first time, in what could be an important step in the industry’s attempts to lower dependence on oil-based fuel.


The airline contacted passengers booked for the six-hour flight from London’s Gatwick airport to Doha beforehand and offered them a free alternative flight in case nerves outweighed a desire to be part of history.

Gary Woodward, general manager operations and technical supply at Shell, which developed the 50-50 blend of synthetic gas-to-liquids (GTL) kerosene and conventional oil-based kerosene used on the flight, said the fuel offered airlines the chance to become less reliant on oil-based fuel.

Although the GTL fuel also has lower emissions of pollutants affecting local air quality, neither Shell nor other members of the consortium developing it claim it is better at reducing carbon emissions, saying only that “there may be some modest CO2 emissions benefits”. Jeff Gazzard , board member of the Aviation Environment Federation group, said: “GTL is useful for local airport air quality but has a higher carbon footprint than ordinary fuel.”

Aviation has become a target of environmentalists who accuse it of dragging its heels on climate change. The industry unveiled an agreement last month to cut emissions to 50 per cent below 2005 levels by 2050.

A number of manufacturers and airlines, including Virgin Atlantic, Continental Airlines and Air New Zealand, have been testing alternative fuels based on substances ranging from coconut oil to algae. At least five test flights using either biofuels or GTL have been carried out over the past two years, including a Virgin Atlantic Boeing 747-400 trip in February last year on which one engine operated on a 20 per cent biofuel mix of babassu oil and coconut oil.

Airbus flew an A380 last year with one engine powered by GTL fuel.

However, Qatar Airways claims to be the first airline to use GTL kerosene on an ordinary scheduled flight with paying passengers.

Commercial airlines in South Africa have used coal-to-liquid kerosene but Monday’s flight was the first using natural gas-to-liquid, which is considered more environmentally beneficial.

A spokesman for the Civil Aviation Authority in the UK said GTL had been used on military flights but the Qatar flight was the first time the authority had heard of it being used on a commercial flight with passengers.

Mr Woodward of Shell said the new GTL fuel was only the third to be approved for aircraft since the 1930s because of the need to ensure passenger safety.

Financial Time

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