Kingfisher in deals for bio jet fuel R&D If the plan succeeds, the carrier can cut reliance on costly aviation fuel and reduce greenhouse gas emissions
By Ashwani Kumar
| January 1st 2010 06:27 PM | Print
Mumbai: India’s second largest airline by passengers carried, Kingfisher Airlines Ltd, has signed an agreement with three international firms to explore development and production of an alternative jet fuel to reduce carbon emissions.
Power backup: Kingfisher Airlines chairman Vijay Mallya. Pankaj Nangia / Bloomberg
Regular jet fuel or aviation turbine fuel (ATF), a colourless refined kerosene, accounts for up to 40% of the total operating cost of airlines in India.
“We have already signed up with three companies to develop the biofuel. We are working on the cost-benefit analysis for the project,” said a senior Kingfisher Airlines executive who did not want to be identified as he is not authorized to speak to the media.
He did not disclose the names or details of the international companies that will develop the bio jet fuel for his carrier. If the experiment succeeds, the airline will be able to reduce its dependence on high-cost ATF and pare its carbon footprint or greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.
Rival carrier and the country’s largest airline Jet Airways (India) Ltd said it is closely monitoring global research and development (R&D) into alternative fuels while national carrier Air India is not immediately looking at bio jet fuel, but is reducing carbon emissions through various operational techniques.
In an unrelated development, European Aeronautic Defence and Space Co. NV (EADS), the parent company of aircraft manufacturer Airbus SAS, is in talks with a few Indian biotech firms to explore joint partnerships in biofuels.
Jean Botti, chief technology officer at EADS, had told Mint in December his company is talking to some institutions in India but declined to name them.
Green craft: A February 2008 photo of a Virgin Atlantic Boeing 747 plane that was partially powered by biofuel derived from a mix of babassu and coconut oil, a first for commercial aircraft. Gill Allen / Bloomberg
Many international carriers have been in talks with specialized firms that are developing alternative jet fuel using renewable oils including those derived from agriculture, algae, animal fat and waste greases.
On 15 December, 15 international airlines including American Airlines Inc., Delta Air Lines Inc. and Deutsche Lufthansa AG signed a pact with AltAir Fuels Llc and Rentech Inc. for the supply of alternative aviation fuel by 2012.
Indian carriers, however, have not reached such a stage as yet.
AltAir Fuels, set up in 2008 to develop projects for the production of jet fuel from renewable and sustainable oils, said there is no specific interest from Indian carriers.
Julie Dawoodjee, vice-president, investor relations and communications at Rentech would only say that members of the International Air Transport Association, or Iata, have expressed interest in alternative aviation fuels and the association would like its 230 member carriers to use 10% alternative fuels by 2017.
Air India, Jet Airways, JetLite (India) Ltd and Kingfisher Airlines are members of Iata.