Published on December 11th, 2014 | by James Ayre


Boeing Completes 1st Flight In World Powered With “Green Diesel”

December 11th, 2014 by  

The world’s first flight powered with a “green diesel” hybrid jet fuel was recently successfully completed by Boeing, according to a recent press statement.

This first test flight was completed using the company’s ecoDemonstrator 787 flight test airplane, and a 15% green-diesel/85% petroleum jet-fuel mix (in the left engine).

Boeing 787. Image Credit: Thor Jorgen Udvang / Shutterstock.com

The “green diesel” used in the hybrid fuel is currently widely available, and utilized in many places in ground transportation technologies.

“Green diesel offers a tremendous opportunity to make sustainable aviation biofuel more available and more affordable for our customers,” explained Julie Felgar, the managing director of Environmental Strategy and Integration, Boeing Commercial Airplanes. “We will provide data from several ecoDemonstrator flights to support efforts to approve this fuel for commercial aviation and help meet our industry’s environmental goals.”

This green diesel is produced from materials that would otherwise end up discarded as waste — used vegetable oils, waste cooking oil, and waste animal fats. Chemically speaking, previous work from Boeing determined that this fuel (once processed) is chemically similar to the HEFA (hydro-processed esters and fatty acids) aviation biofuel approved a few years ago in 2011.

(To be clear, this green diesel is a different type of fuel from the biodiesel currently in common use.)


“The airplane performed as designed with the green diesel blend, just as it does with conventional jet fuel,” stated Captain Mike Carriker, Chief Pilot, Product Development and 777X, Boeing Test and Evaluation. “This is exactly what we want to see in flight tests with a new type of fuel.”

The press release provides more:

With production capacity of 800 million gallons (3 billion liters) in the US, Europe and Asia, green diesel could rapidly supply as much as 1% of global jet fuel demand. With a wholesale cost of about $3 per gallon, inclusive of US government incentives, green diesel approaches price parity with petroleum jet fuel. On a lifecycle basis, sustainably produced green diesel reduces carbon emissions by 50% to 90% compared to fossil fuel, according to Finland-based Neste Oil, which supplied green diesel for the ecoDemonstrator 787.

The recent test flight was completed in coordination with the US Federal Aviation Administration, Rolls-Royce and Pratt & Whitney, and EPIC Aviation.

The work with green diesel is amongst many other initiatives that are part of Boeing’s ecoDemonstrator Program aboard 787 Dreamliner ZA004 — the aim of which is to accelerate the process of bringing new technologies/methods to improve “aviation’s environmental performance” to commercial readiness.

More information can be found here.


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Image: Boeing 787 by Thor Jorgen Udvang / Shutterstock.com

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About the Author

's background is predominantly in geopolitics and history, but he has an obsessive interest in pretty much everything. After an early life spent in the Imperial Free City of Dortmund, James followed the river Ruhr to Cofbuokheim, where he attended the University of Astnide. And where he also briefly considered entering the coal mining business. He currently writes for a living, on a broad variety of subjects, ranging from science, to politics, to military history, to renewable energy. You can follow his work on Google+.

  • Scott Jones

    15% Green Diesel? Whoopee. Call me again when it’s 100% and I’ll be impressed.

    • Philip W

      I agree, we have a long way to go. But every step, no matter how small, helps.

  • Doug Cutler

    Perhaps we will see airlines experimenting with special bio-fueled commercial flights at some point. Even at a premium there might be enough takers among the climate conscious. Bio fuel needs to be of the non-agricultural displacing sort though.

  • David in Bushwick

    For the few days after 9/11 when most all flights around the world were grounded, air temperatures started to spike because all those thousands of planes weren’t spewing their fumes which shield the sun similar to a volcanic eruption. Ponder that a while.
    This is good for research but airlines only contribute 5% or so to global warming. Dirty Coal is the real problem we need to concentrate ending right now.

    • Larmion


      – Air travel is the fastest growing single source of carbon emissions. Its share was around 2% just twenty years ago.
      – NOx emissions near the tropopauze accelerate ozone formation there. Ozone is an extremely powerful greenhouse gas (roughly 1000x times more potent that CO2 and 30x stronger than CH4). While it’s a short-lived gas, it is replenished faster than it breaks down.
      – The highly local formation of cirrus clouds has so far had no measurable effect on global temperatures.

      And of course, emissions while the aircraft is taking of or landing cause zones of extremely high air pollution that harm the millions working and living at or around airports.

      Air travel is easily the most environmentally damaging activity an average person engages in, and also one of the hardest to mitigate. Biofuels currently offer the only realistic route to low(ish)-carbon flight.

      On topic: biodiesel from reclaimed oils is nothing new. It’s nice and easy, but limited in supply. The biggest improvement would be ethanol aircraft fuel (E85 has been used succesfully) made from low grade cellulose-rich plant matter.

  • Adrian

    I could swear I’ve been reading about flights using biofuel blends for years now, including US military aIrcraft being certified for blended fuels. Not sure how Boeing claims “first” on this one, but they’ve certainly received a lot of coverage for it this week.

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