Alaska Air Flies With Biofuel Made from Corn

Photo provided by Alaska Air

In efforts to lower emissions, airlines and biofuel companies have been testing new possibilities and pushing their limits to create cheaper jet fuel that’s safer for the environment. One airline has partnered with a biofuel company to create and test new solutions.

Alaska Air joined with Gevo, a biofuel company, to fly two flights on Tuesday, June 7th, using a mix of normal Jet A and biofuel created with fermented corn. The fuel was used on flight 338 from Seattle to San Fransico and flight 2 from Seattle to Washington D.C. The flights were only a start in their joint research to discover new ways to not only create more efficient jet fuel, but to also create feed for farm animals.

Alaska ordered 1,000 gallons of fuel as a basis to continue their experiments.

The new biofuel, created by the Colorado company, is a mixture of jet fuel and biofuel. According to The  Seattle Times, Gevo creates isobutanol, which is a form of alcohol, in a similar way as ethanol. The leading biofuel company  uses startch from corn to create isobutanol. The protein from the corn is turned into animal feed. The isobutanol is then turned into renewable jet fuel within a plant in Texas. This strategy not only helps the airlines and emissions, but it also massively impacts corn farmers in a positive way. David Kolsrud, a member of The Funding Farm told Yahoo Finance that this method is “a game-changer for traditional farmers.”

The fuel requires no modifications to the aircrafts engines and there is no changes needed when it comes to pumping the fuel into the aircrafts tanks. The only change needed is a way for the Sea-Tac airport to get mass shipments of the biofuel to the gates, which the management teams are currently creating solutions for.

Alaska used a biofuel made from cooking oil in 2011 on flights from Seattle to Portland and Washington D.C. as part of the airline’s plans to use biofuel on a regular basis at its hub in Seattle by the year 2020. The flights on Tuesday was another step in achieving their goal.

However, Alaska isn’t the only US based airline experimenting with biofuels. In 2014, Southwest  started using a “low-carbon renewable jet fuel” made with forest remains from a company called Red Rocks Biofuels. In 2015, United also began testing a new biofuel using farm waste and animal fat oils.

Even with the current low oil prices, the airlines are continuing to test new biofuels for the future with hopes of mass producing the fuel.

Matthew Garcia

Matthew Garcia

Matthew Garcia became interested in aviation at the age of 12 when he installed Microsoft Flight Simulator X on his computer. He was instantly "bitten by the bug" and has been in love with aviation ever since. Matthew took his first introductory flight in 2013 and began normal flight training in February of 2015. Over the years, Matthew's love and knowledge for aviation has grown tremendously, mainly due to FSX. Garcia flies highly advanced aircraft in a professional manner on a highly complex virtual air traffic network simulating real world flying. In 2016 Matthew achieved his private pilot certificate from the FAA. Now he studies journalism at the University of Nebraska at Omaha.
Matthew Garcia