A campaign of 75 revenue flights by Alaska Airlines and Horizon Air using a biofuel blend, which begins tomorrow with flights from Seattle to Washington and Portland, is intended to show fuel producers there is demand for alternatives, the carrier says (Aviation Daily, Nov. 8).

“Biofuel production is not at a scale to make it price-competitive [with conventional jet fuel], but we believe it is important to highlight our interest–to show the biofuel industry there is demand,” says Megan Lawrence, Alaska’s managing director of government and community relations.

The Seattle flights, using a 20% blend of biofuel derived from waste cooking oil, and a Nov. 7 Houston-Chicago United Airlines flight using a 40% blend of biofuel from algal oil, come at a critical stage of negotiations among feedstock providers, fuel producers and private investors to scale up bio-jet production to commercial quantities.

Alaska plans 11 Seattle-Washington biofuel flights with a Boeing 737 and three daily Seattle-Portland roundtrips—a total of 64 flights—with a Bombardier Q400 turboprop. “Demonstrating transcontinental with the 737 was a no-brainer, but we also wanted to show short-haul with the Q400 on a route where there is a lot of competition from vehicles,” says Lawrence.

While other airlines have used blends as high a 50% biofuel, Alaska was limited to 20% by the price and availability of fuel, Lawrence says. Using the 20% biofuel blend on 75 flights will result in a reduction in CO2 emissions of 10% over conventional jet fuel, she says. “Using a 20% blend in all our flights for a year would be equivalent to taking 64,000 cars off the road.” While Alaska highlights the environmental benefits, its main interest is in biofuel as a way to put competitive pressure on the cost of conventional jet fuel. “We view biofuel as an alternative that can help with fuel price volatility,” Lawrence says. “Competitive pricing is important, as fuel is our single largest cost.”

To source the biofuel for the flight campaign, Alaska worked with SkyNRG, a company formed by European partners, including Air France/KLM, to accelerate development of a market for sustainable jet fuel.

The fuel supplied to Alaska was produced in Louisiana by Dynamic Fuels, a joint venture of Tyson Foods and Syntroleum. Amsterdam-based SkyNRG also supplied biofuel from cooking oil to KLM, Finnair and Thomson Airways for use in revenue flights.