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back to article Algae-fuelled* airliner test successful

The world's first test of a passenger airliner partially powered by fuel made from algae took place successfully yesterday in Texas. The Houston Chronicle reports that the jet, an unmodified Boeing 737-800 operated by US carrier Continental Airlines, took off from Bush Intercontinental airport in Houston at 1218 local time. …

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Hang on a second

One engine (of two) was run on 50/50 standard aviation fuel . Of that 50% of the overall fuel load supposedly running the bio-fueled engine, 50% was also regular fuel, of the remainder (25%) "some" was 'derived partly from Jatropha nuts and partly from algae' (partly? what percentages does that represent? Why aren't we being told?). And this gives headlines of ‘Algae-fuelled airliner test successful’. I don't think so.

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Let me be the first to..

Let me be the first to welcome our insulin addicted scummy green overlords.

Seriously I have been waiting ages for those flyboys to get testing some of that wonderful green gue. Stop pricking about with the 1st generation fuels and let the 2nd generation lead the way from here on...........

We who are about to fly salute you!!

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Paris Hilton

Does this mean that contrails will be green?

Everyone knows that green (contrails?) and blue (sky - well sometimes) don't match, so I hope this won't happen else the fashion-conscious such as PH, will refuse to fly.

Otherwise a good start, though I wonder how much of the planet will have to be covered with algae for enough fuel to be made.

ttfn

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Alert

Title

"...a series of manoeuvres over the Gulf of Mexico, including a midair engine shutdown and restart..."

"...burned 3,600lb of biofuel mixed 50-50 with normal fossil jetfuel in one engine, and 3,700lb of regular juice in the other. According to Jankowski, this indicated that the test fuel was actually more efficient than normal supplies."

It might; if they only shut down the biofuel-burning engine in the tests that could account for the difference, depending on long it wasn't burning, and how much fuel it uses to start up.

(Actually, won't the starter motor draw electricity generated from the *other* engine?)

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Coat

@this

Exactly what I was thinking- if it burned 100lbs less over the test flight, maybe that was it just not burning well and generally being a bit crap? When it's running on 50/50 2nd-gen bio fuel THEN it's closer to news. But less than 25%? Meh. It could have separated out in the tank and just been left there while the jet fuel burned for all we know.

And a perfect textbook flight on the first trial of a new type of fuel? That sounds rather suspect...

Well done to the people who've made this happen- if it's all worked as you say then it's an achievement and I hope to see more of your planes zipping about soon.

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Anonymous Coward

Algae

So we're going to cover vast swarthes of the freshwater and saltwater surfaces of our planet with algae, decreasing the oxygen and sunlight in the water (killing the fish) and causing that water to heat up more (darker and less reflective algae means a certain area of water will reflect less with algae), aiding global warming.

Yeah, well done. enviro-tards.

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Alien

Meanwhile, in unrelated news...

...Sloarg, spiritual head of the Fundamentalist Swampthing Church of the Blessed Damp, declared "dryfoot" society to be morally bankrupt and called on all righteous Swampthings to reject a culture that glorifies ultra-absorbency, and all-day dryness.

At the same time Sloark, secular leader of the Swampthing people and cousin of Sloarg on his father's side, has been working with economists and business leaders to identify strategies to most profitably exploit the tiny state's vast supplies of fouled standing water.

The President is confident that despite unspecified "extraction issues", they will be able to ship light sweet sludge at a price approximating the cost of comparable quality fossil fuel oil. "You will be amazed how close the prices will be" he was heard to say, after a goodwill visit from uncharacteristically jovial OPEC ministers.

At the end of the press conference the President waved and oozed the gelatinous slime of contentment before turning and, dragging a screaming journalist behind him, returning to the foul depths of his presidential summer pond.

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Black Helicopters

Re: Hang on a second

Good God man. You're not supposed to ask questions like that.

@lIsRT

Whilst you can assume that management & PR will fudge the results as much as possible, the flight crew will make sure their numbers are correct. Making an over optimistic assumption about fuel consumption is a big no-no.

A good example is NASA engineers vs management. The engineering estimates for a catastrophic failure were about 1000 times more conservative than management. Makes you wonder (if you didn't already) what planet some people are on.

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@IIsRT re. Title

Furthermore, if you shut down an engine in a twin engine craft, you run on half power and probably have to increase thrust from the other engine to compensate for that - maybe.

So much for scientific testing and jumping to conclusions based on one experiment?

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Boffin

Beh

3600lb. and 3700lb. are the same thing, more or less -- it's most probably a rounding error.

The original figures in kg. would be much more enlightening.

Never trust any figures that aren't in proper measuring units, and especially don't trust figures with commas for thousand-separators.

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Re Algae

<<>>

So we're going to cover vast swarthes of the freshwater and saltwater surfaces of our planet with algae, decreasing the oxygen and sunlight in the water (killing the fish) and causing that water to heat up more (darker and less reflective algae means a certain area of water will reflect less with algae), aiding global warming.

<<>>

You missed the point... fuel for flying and living in the low gravity of Mars; powered by the algae which will be introduced (and survive?) in the harsh atmosphere; gently warming the planet until colonists can air swim from high volcanoes...

Mines the one with the Kim Stanley Robinson books acting as a door stop...

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Anonymous Coward

@Beh

The figures /are/ in their original units - this is the US remember. Pounds, feet, quarts and cups. And @the other doubters - how do you know they didn't shutdown /both/ engines in midair (though presumably not simultaneously).

Oh and the fuel can't separate out in the tanks, its not water and oil... d'oh.

Anyway, to keep the Houston theme going don't you just stir the tanks every so often?

....

Did anyone hear a bang?

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Gold badge

Danger Will Robinson.

Hmm, if this takes off (oops, sorry) and Ryanair get confused between the perceived scum in the back and the actual scum in the wing tanks, it could all get nasty. Does soylent green count as a renewable resource?

Oh, and thousand seperators in numbers? I never have a problem with that. It's the ones with commas as decimal points that I've learned to distrust. Also, since the US aircraft industry does its fuel calculations in pounds, those almost certainly *are* the original figures. Conversion to kilos might well introduce rounding errors though.....

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I smell pork

The only question that counts is how long did it take to produce that volume of fuel, at what cost per barrel?

Sorry to say this, but good old fashioned exploration and production by oil companies knocks this kind of thing into a cocked hat every time. Come back when your slime pond spits out oil at 10,000 barrels per day for a reasonable cost per barrel and you might have a viable scheme on your hands.

This is the fundamental problem with all these biofuel plans - they can't compete on a level playing field with conventional sources of the black stuff. But hey, the US government will give you money out of its strategic pork barrel if you generate enough of a smokescreen to hide these kinds of things.

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Boffin

Photosynthesis

Dragging you back to your O-level biology (if you did GSCEs you probably never had to do anything as complicated) ...

Green algae is photosynthetic i.e. it takes carbon dioxide and water, mixes it with sunshine and turns it into sugar ... oh, and as a waste product, there is oxygen released.

6CO2 + 6H2O >> C6H12O6 + 6O2

Anonymous coward, you're arguement against this seems to be a bit weak. Algae would add to the oxygen in the water, give fish lots to eat (and an ideal habitat to live in until the combine harvestors turn up) and reduce CO2 concentrations ...

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Flame

So now we can do something useful with it?

I look forward to reading about Britain's first scum-powered power station. And no, I'm not talking about using chavs on treadmills..

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Jon
Paris Hilton

@@this

> And a perfect textbook flight on the first trial of a new type of fuel? That sounds rather suspect

It's the first _flight_. But I bet they ran a _lot_ of tests in just an engine on a test stand, then a few more tests in an aircraft on the ground. So it's nowhere near the first time the fuel was used.

As a practical matter, the beancounters would have wanted to know it's going to work before they risk blowing up an expensive airplane, killing expensive pilots, and crashing into expensive houses full of expensive-to-pay-compensation-to-the-next-of-kin people. It's a lot cheaper if you just blow up an engine on a test stand (and there's much less bad PR).

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@Algae

Except for that fact that eutrophication (falling levels of oxygen in water) occurs when algae decompose. When alive, algae absorb CO2 and produce oxygen. It's called photosynthesis. Since the algae would be gathered and used to produce fuel, it would presumably lead to an increase in oxygenation and albedo, not the other way around.

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Coat

This is a title: 3600 / 3700

Was the flight loop clockwise or anticlockwise, and which engine had which fuel..?

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Hmm

"Also, since the US aircraft industry does its fuel calculations in pounds, those almost certainly *are* the original figures. Conversion to kilos might well introduce rounding errors though....."

Does it? I'll admit full ignorance here, but I know a lot of US science industries do use SI measurements because they're much easier to work with. Maybe not in normal fueling situations, but perhaps for a test flight. Again, that's only speculation... I don't actually know.

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J
Black Helicopters

@Jon

"and crashing into expensive houses full of expensive-to-pay-compensation-to-the-next-of-kin people"

Probably not much risk of that happening anyway. They flew from Houston (very close to the sea), and over the ocean all the rest of the time. Depending on the route chosen, there might be very few houses under the thing, as far as I can tell from Google Maps...

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