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SpiceJet flies India’s first biofuel flight, from Dehradun to Delhi

The 45-minute flight of the 75-seater SpiceJet Bombardier Q400 aircraft that took off from Dehradun’s Jolly Grant airport and successfully landed in Delhi and had at least 25 persons onboard.

Written by Kavita Upadhyay | New Delhi |
Updated: August 28, 2018 1:33:25 am
SpiceJet operates India's first biofuel powered flight Around 20 people, including officials from aviation regulator DGCA and SpiceJet, were in the test flight.

Paving the way for the usage of alternative fuels in the aviation sector, country’s first ever biojet fuel-powered flight was successfully tested between Dehradun and Delhi, on Monday.

The 45-minute flight of the 75-seater SpiceJet Bombardier Q400 aircraft that took off from Dehradun’s Jolly Grant airport and successfully landed in Delhi. It had atleast 25 persons including members of the Dehradun-based Indian Institute of Petroleum (IIP) — one of the leading laboratories under the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) that developed the biojet fuel on which the flight operated – officials from the aviation regulator Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), and members of SpiceJet, onboard.

Calling it a “huge step towards encouraging sustainable and alternative fuels for transportation and aviation sector”, in a series of tweets, Minister of Petroleum and Natural Gas Dharmendra Pradhan declared the test flight a success on Twitter where he posted: “First time in India a test flight has been flown from Dehradun to New Delhi with blended biojet fuel.”

Anil Sinha, Principal Scientist at IIP who headed the 20-member team that developed the biojet fuel that powered the SpiceJet aircraft said that the institute was experimenting with biofuels for the past 10 years.

“For now, the tests have been at a non-commercial scale, but after this success we have plans to scale up research and production of biofuels so that they can enter the commercial sector,” Sinha said.

The 450 litres of biojet fuel that was used on Monday was developed by using oil extracted from the seeds of the Jatropha plant which was supplied to IIP by the Chhattisgarh Biofuel Development Authority (CBDA). The CBDA had procured the supply from 500 families of Chhattisgarh-based farmers.

Sinha said the institute will now procure oil from various seeds and trees for biofuel production.

“Procuring feed for biofuel is a challenge. However, once streamlined, it’ll help farmers and tribals earn from supplying the feed. Currently, Tezpur University in Assam has assured us that it will send us few thousand litres of Nahor oil (from the Nahor tree). Seed-bearing trees can be used for biofuel formation, so in the coming years biofuel production will surely give a boost to agro-forestry,” Sinha said.

On Monday, the SpiceJet flight was tested with one of the two engines of the plane running on a blend of 25 per cent biojet fuel and 75 per cent ATF (aviation turbine fuel), and the other engine running on ATF alone.

The mixture helped reduced carbon emissions by 15 per cent, Sinha said. “With further research we could mix upto 50 per cent biofuel with 50 per cent ATF, which will reduce carbon emissions even further,” he said.

The production of biofuel will also reduce the dependency on crude oil, most of which currently is imported.

While biojet fuel enhances fuel efficiency, it is more expensive than ATF. However, mass production of biojet fuel would help reduce the cost, Sinha said.

Uttarakhand Chief Minister Trivendra Rawat had flagged off the flight from Dehradun, and on Monday afternoon when the flight landed in Delhi’s IGI airport, Minister of Petroleum and Natural Gas Dharmendra Pradhan, along with Minister of Road Transport and Highways Nitin Gadkari, Civil Aviation Minister Suresh Prabhu, Environment Minister Harsh Vardhan, and Minister of State for Civil Aviation Jayant Sinha were present at the airport to receive the flight.

Pradhan announced on Twitter: “Taking our biofuel mission forward, Petroleum Ministry will be bringing a new Bio-ATF policy soon.”

With the success, India has joined an elite club of nations including USA and Australia who use biofuel for commercial flights.

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