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Alaska Airlines Sets a First with Forest Biomass Commercial Jet

21 Nov 16:00 by Steve Walia

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Alaska Airlines has flown its first commercial jet fuelled by alternative biomass jet fuel made from forestry materials.

Passengers took to the skies in the jet that was fuelled by a 20pc sustainable biomass blend taken from the Pacific Northwest's forests. The flight travelled from Seattle and flew to Washington DC on a five-hour journey.

The new and sustainable fuel is made from timber branches, stumps and limbs that are left behind from forestry thinning and harvest operations on private land and managed forests. The use of the fuel meant that emissions were slashed by 50-80pc over the entire life cycle - from growing the original feedstock material through to transporting it for processing and then finally producing the alternative and sustainable fuel.

Total emission reductions depend on the underlying feedstock, but the first flight saw a 70pc reduction on CO2 emissions compared to a standard petroleum-fuelled jet.

Alaska Airlines said that they were using the biofuel on their commercial flights to reduce air pollution and to help bring further benefits to sustainable forestry operations by creating rural jobs, hastening tree replanting and reducing air pollution.

The achievement followed a five-year project involving 32 companies, universities and government bodies, supported by a £31.9 million grant from America's Department of Agriculture.

Alaska Airlines has already been moving ahead with alcohol-to-jet biofuel projects similar to the one being adopted by Virgin Atlantic, which will use low-carbon alternative jet fuel. Additionally, the Fed Ex delivery fleet of 600 aircraft will be using alternative jet fuels in order to achieve challenging corporate emissions reduction goals by 2030.

The aviation sector is working hard to reduce its carbon emissions, with industry leaders from 191 countries joining together in October to bring in a new carbon-offsetting scheme.