Lufthansa became the first airline to use biofuels on regular commercial flights on Friday in a six month trial that it estimates will reduce CO2 emissions by up to 1,500 tonnes during the period.
European airlines are pressing ahead with biofuel plans in order to cut use of regular jet fuel. A pact signed last month with biofuel producers and the EU Commission aims to produce 2 million tonnes of biofuel for aviation by 2020.
Lufthansa is using a mix of regular fuel and biofuel made by Neste Oil from jatropha and camelina crops and animal fats, in one engine of an Airbus plane on daily flights between Frankfurt and Hamburg.
It said on Friday the aim of the trial, along with reducing emissions, was to examine the effects of biofuel on engines.
Passengers on the flights will not see, feel or hear any difference in the aircraft, Lufthansa biofuels director Joachim Buse told Reuters at the Paris Air Show in June.
Robert Wall, international editor at Aviation Week and a passenger on the first flight, said the plane departed from Hamburg to a water cannon salute.
“Niko Pointner, the LH A321 captain, said ‘everything was completely normal,” Wall added.
Air France-KLM and Britain’s Thomson Airways have said they will run commercial flights starting from September using a biofuel mix made from used cooking oil.
However, biofuels are the subject of much debate as to how ‘green’ they actually are, with the use of crops such as palm oil coming under fire for using land that could instead be used to grow crops to feed people.
Friends of the Earth Europe campaigner Robbie Blake told Reuters it was good that Lufthansa now seemed to be avoiding palm oil, but said they might still have to resort to palm oil should they expand the programme.