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SpiceJet conducts India's first biojet flight

In India, low-cost air carrier SpiceJet Ltd has conducted the country's first biofuel-powered flight. Using a 25 percent blend of Jatropha oil derived biojet fuel, the SpiceJet flight was conducted in a Bombardier Q400, a twin turboprop aircraft, that flew from Dehradun Airport (DED) to Delhi Airport (DEL) on August 27. With this maiden flight, India joins the exclusive club of nations using biofuel in aviation.

Getting ready to flag off India’s first ever biojet fuelled flight, Uttarakhand Chief Minister (centre) Shri Trivendra Singh Rawat with Dehradun airport and SpiceJet officials (photo courtesy SpiceJet).

According to a statement, the historic flight was powered by a domestically produced aviation biofuel based on proprietary technology developed by CSIR-Indian Institute of Petroleum (CSIR-IIP). Based Dehradun CSIR-IIP is one of the leading constituent laboratories of the Council of Scientific & Industrial Research (CSIR) and is dedicated to multidisciplinary areas of research and development in the downstream sector of hydrocarbon and related industry.

The flight was flagged off from Dehradun airport (DED) by Chief Minister (CM) of the State of Uttarakhand Shri Trivendra Singh Rawat and was received at Delhi airport (DEL) by Union Ministers Shri Nitin Gadkari, Dr Harsh Vardhan, Shri Dharmendra Pradhan, Shri Suresh Prabhu and Union Minister of State for Civil Aviation Shri Jayant Sinha.

According to Dr Harsh Vardhan, Minister of Science and Technology and Vice President of CSIR, the biofuel technology is going to be a “game changer” as the biojet fuel is greenhouse gas (GHG) neutral, carbon neutral, reduces air pollution and would bring down the import bill on crude oil.

Commercialization of biofuel promises large-scale employment avenues both in the formal and informal sector, said Dr Vardhan.

Long development process

The biojet process technology was sprung from an Indo-Canadian consortium project that took place 2010 to 2013 involving CSIR-IIP, Indian Oil, Hindustan Petroleum, IIT Kanpur and IISc Bangalore. The research was directed by CSIR-IIP towards the production of biojet fuel from jatropha oil and its evaluation under various conditions, culminating in a detailed engine test by Pratt and Whitney in Canada that showed fitness for purpose.

Founded in 2005, SpiceJet is a leading domestic low-cost carrier. Operating a fleet of 58 Boeing and Bombardier aircraft, the airline has an estimated 12 percent share of the domestic market carrying over 1.5 million passengers per month.

As the lead organization for the demonstration flight, SpiceJet, and Chhattisgarh Biofuel Development Authority- the supplier of the jatropha oil for the flight, received considerable policy and regulatory support from the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas (MOPNG) Working Group on Biofuels and the Directorate General Civil Aviation (DGCA) in making the historic flight happen.

According to SpiceJet Chairman and Managing Director Ajay Singh, biojet fuel has the potential to reduce dependence on conventional aviation fuel and bring down the cost of airfares.

This fuel is low cost and helps in significantly reducing carbon emissions. It has the potential to reduce our dependence on traditional aviation fuel by up to 50 percent and bring down fares, said Singh.

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