Poisonous seeds found in the nut of the Jatropha plant contain an oil that my be refined to supplement Jet A at a much lower cost than refined crude oil. The plant, which is really a weed, grows in warm climates and requires little or no care to thrive.
One hectare of Jatropha (about 2.5 acres) can produce approximately 500 gallons of fuel, and given the rise of jet fuel prices by some 70% may soon become the most popular weed on the planet. They figure it will cost about $ 43 a barrel to produce versus roughly $ 125 per barrel for oil, and it would not impact food supplies in the least.
In Africa a number of refineries are under construction to process this oil into biodiesel fuel for automobiles, and India, China and Brazil have already planted millions of hectares of the plant. Soon Air New Zealand will get a taste of this new fuel.
An Air New Zealand Boeing 747 will test this new fuel by operating one of it's four engines on the new fuel, with tests starting in November of this year. Jatropha is one of many biofuels being developed as quickly as possible to help stem the oil price crisis.
Just think - corporate pilots could be required to raise these weeds in their backyard to help fuel the company jet! Well, in the early days farmers were the group most drawn to aviation, I guess it's not too strange to see the process reversed.
Until next time keep your wings straight and level Hersch!