First Biofuel Powered Flight in India

‘Biofuel Technology Developed Indigenously by CSIR will be a Game Changer.’

—Dr Harsh Vardhan, Union Minister of Science & Technology

Issue: 4 / 2018By B.K. PandeyPhoto(s): By Suresh Prabhu / Twitter

“Happy that SpiceJet is setting a precedent by exploring Bio Jetfuel-powered aerial operations using a blend of 75% of av iation turbine fuel (ATF) & 25% of Bio Jet fuel. This may reduce carbon emissions by over 15%. A 100% Bio Jet fuel usage will reduce 60-70% of carbon emission.”
—Suresh Prabhu, Union Minister for Civil Aviation tweets @sureshpprabhu on August 27

On August 27 this year, a historic flight powered by indigenously produced aviation biofuel was flagged off from Jolly Grant Airport at Dehradun by the Chief Minister of Uttarakhand, Trivendra Singh Rawat. The aviation biofuel was developed by the Indian Institute of Petroleum (IIP), a laboratory under the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), that is dedicated to R&D in the hydrocarbon sector.

The SpiceJet flight by the latest generation Q400 aircraft was received at Delhi airport by Union Ministers Nitin Gadkari, Dr Harsh Vardhan, Dharmendra Pradhan, Suresh Prabhu and Minister of State for Civil Aviation Jayant Sinha.

SpiceJet’s 78-seater aircraft Bombardier Q400 aircraft, partially using biojet fuel, took off from Dehradun and landed at IGI Delhi

On the occasion, Dr Harsh Vardhan, Minister, S&T and Vice President, CSIR said that it was a historic day and the biofuel technology is going to be a game-changer as the biojet fuel is Greenhouse Gas neutral, carbon neutral, reduces air pollution and above all, it would bring down import bill of crude oil. “Commercialisation of biofuel promises large-scale employment avenues both in the formal and informal sectors”, said Dr Harsh Vardhan.

The genesis of this development goes back several years to an Indo-Canadian project from 2010 to 2013 involving CSIR-IIP, Indian Oil, Hindustan Petroleum, IIT Kanpur and IISc Bangalore, in which research was directed towards the production of bio-aviation fuel by CSIR-IIP from jatropha oil and its evaluation under various conditions, culminating in a successful on an aircraft engine by Pratt and Whitney in Canada.

SpiceJet – as the lead organisation for the demonstration flight and Chhattisgarh Biofuel Development Authority, the supplier of the jatropha oil for the flight, sourced from over 500 farmers, received considerable policy and regulatory support from the MOPNG Working Group on Biofuels and the Directorate General Civil Aviation (DGCA) in making this flight happen.

With this successful maiden flight, India joins the exclusive club of nations using biofuel in aviation. The use of biofuel, apart from reducing Greenhouse Gas emissions by about 15 per cent and sulfur oxides (SOx) emissions by over 99 per cent, is expected to provide indigenous jet fuel supply security, possible cost savings as feedstock availability at farm level scales up, superior engine performance and reduced maintenance cost for the airline operators.