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Brief Published: 29 Jul 2011

Lufthansa Trials Biofuel


This month German airline Lufthansa has launched a six-month biofuel trial on regular scheduled flights.

From July, a Lufthansa Airbus A321 is flying the four times daily Hamburg-Frankfurt-Hamburg route with one engine running on a 50/50 mix of regular fuel and biosynthetic kerosene (jatropha, camelina and animal fats). Biokerosene has similar properties to those of conventional kerosene so it can be used for all aircraft types without engine modification.

Lufthansa Group chairman and CEO Christoph Franz said in a press statement: “We are thus continuing to steadily implement our proven and successful strategy for sustainability.” Lufthansa has said that as well as reducing carbon dioxide emissions the main aim of this trial is to examine the effects of biofuel on the maintenance and lifespan of aircraft engines.

The biosynthetic kerosene used by Lufthansa is derived from pure biomass. The company claims that the fuel originates from a sustainable supply and production process. It said that the production of the fuel is not in direct competition with food production and no rainforests are destroyed in the production process.

However, Lufthansa was criticised by Action Aid in April when it announced its plans to source jatropha for the production of biosynthetic kerosene. Tim Rice, Action Aid’s biofuels expert claimed: “Jatropha is far from the ‘sustainable’ fuel that it is made out to be by the aviation industry. In fact, it could end up increasing carbon emissions. Jatropha plantations can create huge social upheaval.”

EQ2, an organisation specialising in carbon corporate responsibility and sustainability, claimed in a 2010 report the main driver for the development of a sustainable alternative to aviation fuel was the financial risk of fossil fuel dependence. Environmental issues and increasing regulation were secondary priorities.