Wonderful Engineering

World’s First Biofuel Flight Had Mustard Seeds As Its Fuel

A flight from Los Angeles to Melbourne made history by travelling all this distance on biofuel. The Qantas plane, a Boeing Dreamliner 787-9 was powered using a mixture of 90% standard jet fuel and 10% of biofuel. The biofuel was derived from Brassica carinata which is an industrial mustard seed. As compared to a normal flight, this flight emitted 7% less carbon in the environment. While making a pound to pound comparison, it was observed that the mustard seed biofuel produce 80% fewer emissions than a traditional fuel over the course of its life cycle.

At the moment, the airlines are allowed to use a total of 50% of biofuels to power their flights. A Qantas spokesman said that the new specification might help increasing it to a 100%. Biofuels can help a lot to reduce flight emissions, however, since it is produced from the waste oil of restaurants the supply is not very consistent.

Ethiopian mustard seeds in varying stages of a biofuel production process

On the contrary, Brassica carinata is a crop which is grown specifically to be used as a biofuel since it also benefits the farmers. Daniel Tan, an agriculture expert from the University of Sydney said that if a farmer grows one crop on the same plot each year, it hurts the soil. But if he grows mustard seed on that soil after every few years, the soil quality gets improved. The farmer can harvest the soil, press out the oil themselves and can use it in their power equipment.

After the oil is extracted from the seeds, the leftover material can be used to feed animals. If there’s any extra oil it can be sold to the aviation industry. This will provide them with the consistent access which is needed to make biofuels a regular part of their operations. The Qantas flight might be one of those flights which travel around the globe every day. By showing that mustard seeds biofuel is a good fuel for flights, the shift to it will be in favour of farmers, airlines and our planet as well.