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Qantas plans mustard power for trans-Pacific

SYDNEY: November 18, 2017. Qantas is to operate the world's first bio-fuel B787-9 flight between Melbourne and Los Angeles next year based on Brassica carinata, an industrial mustard seed.

The planned commercial test flight follows a partnership between Qantas and Canadian company Agrisoma Biosciences that has developed the seed.

Former Qantas Cargo manager and now CEO of Qantas International Alison Webster said the partnership marks the first step in developing an aviation biofuel supply in Australia: "We are constantly looking for ways to reduce carbon emissions across our operations but when it comes to using renewable jet fuel, until now there has not been a locally grown option at the scale we need to power our fleet.

Qantas B787-9"Our work with Agrisoma will enable Australian farmers to start growing today for the country's biofuel needs of the future. The trans-Pacific biofuel flight is a demonstration of what can be achieved locally," Webster added.

Qantas expects farmers to produce the country's first commercial aviation biofuel seed crop by 2020 with the goal of cultivating 400,000 hectares of carinata that would yield over 200 million liters of bio-jet fuel each year.

"This will support the development of a renewable jetfuel supply and bio-refinery in Australia to power our fleet and further reduce carbon emissions across our operations," said Webster.

Water-efficient and sown in either fallow areas where food crops fail, or in between regular crop cycles, carinata can be used as a rotational crop that improves soil quality, reduces erosion for food crops and provides farmers with additional annual income.

"Importantly for farmers, the crushed seed also produces a high-quality, high-protein, non-GMO meal for the Australian livestock, dairy and poultry market," noted Agrisoma CEO Steve Fabijanski.

"Our commercial operations in the USA, South America and Europe are certified as producing fuels with more than an 80 percent reduction in carbon emissions in comparison to standard petroleum-based fuel," he added.

According to Anthony van Herwaarden from the University of Queensland, trials this year have demonstrated carinata can be grown successfully in Australia. "Expanding the trials in 2018 will begin the scale-up process to commercial production in the years ahead."

Carinita is a 'drop-in' crop and therefore requires no modification to meet the same technical, performance and safety standards as carbon-based jet fuel.

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