Cabbage instead of jet fuel: what fuel will planes fly on

Fifteen years ago, on February 24, 2008, the first ever biofuel-powered airliner flight took place : a Virgin Atlantic Boeing 747 flew from London to Amsterdam. At the same time, one of the four engines of the aircraft ran on fuel obtained from plant mass - palm oil and coconut oil.

What is biofuel? It is a fuel of vegetable or animal origin. Supporters of ecological “fuel” believe that its use will reduce emissions of gases that cause the greenhouse effect, as well as reduce economic dependence on minerals.

Aviation accounts for three percent of EU greenhouse gas emissions. In October 2021, global airlines committed to cutting CO2 emissions to zero by 2050. The corresponding resolution was approved by members of the International Air Transport Association (IATA), which includes 290 companies that provide 82% of global air travel.

In November 2021, the first-ever flight on 100% sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) was made by an Airbus H225 helicopter. This was the start of a series of flight tests aimed at studying the effects of biofuels on helicopter systems. “Now all Airbus helicopters are certified to fly with 50% SAF/kerosene. Our intention is to have our helicopters certified to fly on 100% green fuel within the next ten years,” said Stefan Thom, Executive Vice President, Engineer and Chief technical director of Airbus Helicopters.


In a word, biofuels are trying to replace traditional jet fuel: there are already a dozen varieties of products and plants from which a new type of aircraft “fuel” is obtained . Algae, coconuts, Brazil nuts, inedible plants such as camelina and jatropha (a woody shrub with large oily seeds), non-food animal fats …

So far, all “bio-fuels” are not cheap. At the same time, according to experts, “green fuel” is 60 percent cleaner than jet fuel. Moreover, the characteristics and properties of competitors are practically the same. This means that biofuel does not require any structural changes either in aircraft or in engines. This seems to have been convincingly proved by test flights.

In the rating of aviation bio-raw materials, algae certainly occupy the first place. This is understandable: for growth, they do not need such valuable resources as land or fresh water. In addition, seaweed can produce about 2 times more bioethanol than sugar cane and 5 times more than corn.

In the leaders and a modest ginger. This herb is considered to be a close relative of the common cabbage. Grown in wheat fields after harvest. Ryzhik is used exclusively for the production of cosmetics and is simply unsuitable for food.

Jatropha is grown in Mexico. Experts are sure that in the future there will be more sophisticated options for the production of fuel, new types of plants and components. For example, there are even proposals to create biofuels from millet. This perennial plant produces high yields and requires a minimum of nitrogen and water.

In Russia, developments on the creation of aviation fuel from vegetable raw materials have been underway for a long time. But it is too early to say that domestic bottling biofuel has already been created. Our specialists admit that everything still needs to be rechecked many times, and the resulting product needs to be certified. And the technology of its production is still only laboratory, and therefore – expensive. The transition to industrial production requires both money and time.

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