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Biofuel flight in Canada marks paradigm shift

Posted on Oct 30, 01:45PM | IANS

The world's first civil jet powered entirely by unblended biofuel flew Monday into the skies of this Canadian capital city, said authorities. It could mark paradigm shift.

Canada's National Research Council (NRC), an agency of the federal government, organised the initiative and called it "a major milestone for the aviation industry", reported Xinhua.

The biofuel was used in the engine of the Falcon 20, one of the council's specially equipped jets. A second aircraft, the T-33, tailed the Falcon in flight and collected information on the emissions generated by the biofuel.

NRC experts would analyze the data to understand the environmental impact of biofuel and release preliminary results in the coming weeks, the council said in a news release.

The biofuel used in the historic flight relied on the Resonance industrial oilseed produced by Agrisoma Biosciences Inc.

In a press release, the Ottawa-based company explained that biofuel flights had previously been restricted to a 50-percent-blend with petroleum, imposing limitations on fuel use.

But with a proprietary catalytic process, called hydrothermolysis and developed by US company Applied Research Associates Inc., Agrisoma's oilseed has been converted into a fuel that can completely replace conventional jet fuel.

Hydrothermolysis is a new process invented by chemical engineers at Purdue University that uses a high hydrogen-content powdered chemical called ammonia borane and combines two hydrogen-generating processes, hydrolysis and thermolysis, to achieve conditions appropriate for use in vehicles.

"To date, all powered flights have relied on fossil fuel," said Steven Fabijanski, president and chief executive officer of Agrisoma, adding that Monday's flight "changes everything".

"We have witnessed petroleum-free aviation," he said.

The Resonance brand industrial oilseed crop used to make the biofuel uniquely suited for production in semi-arid regions, making its cultivation ideal in the southern Canadian Prairies, according to the NRC.

This year, some 40 commercial growers in western Canada have been contracted to grow more than 6,000 acres of the crop, which will be used to create 100-percent bio-jet fuel.