Que­bec-made bio­fuel to power air­line flight

The Prince George Citizen - - Money - Stephane BLAIS

MON­TREAL — Pas­sen­gers aboard a United Air­lines flight head­ing to Zurich from San Fran­cisco to­day will be pro­pelled in part by a bio­fuel cre­ated by a Que­bec com­pany aim­ing to clean up the skies.

Agri­soma Bio­sciences Inc. is the firm be­hind the bio­fuel made from Car­i­nata mus­tard and com­pany founder and pres­i­dent Steve Fabi­jan­ski be­lieves it could help dra­mat­i­cally de­car­bonize the avi­a­tion in­dus­try.

“For me, this is a very good ex­am­ple of Cana­dian in­no­va­tion and es­pe­cially in­no­va­tion from Que­bec in terms of look­ing at green so­lu­tions,” he said in an in­ter­view from Paris with The Cana­dian Press.

Thirty per cent of the jet fuel used in the Boe­ing will be re­placed by the bio­fuel, lead­ing the com­pany to pro­claim the plane will emit 30 per cent less green­house gases than a reg­u­lar flight.

Fabi­jan­ski said he be­lieves his com­pany’s prod­uct is the green­est bio­fuel ever used in a plane to date and that part­ner­ing with United Air­lines will serve as a show­case for at­tract­ing new projects.

With a flight time of 11 hours, the Cal­i­for­nia-to-Switzer­land flight will be the long­est transat­lantic trip to date us­ing bio­fu­els and the sec­ond time Agri­soma’s mus­tard-based prod­uct will be used in a com­mer­cial flight.

Last Jan. 28, it was used in a 15hour transpa­cific Qan­tas Air­ways flight be­tween Aus­tralia and the United States.

In that in­stance, the mus­tard bio­fuel re­placed 10 per cent of the jet fuel.

Cur­rently, in­ter­na­tional avi­a­tion tech­ni­cal and reg­u­la­tory rules limit the amount of bio­fuel that can be used in com­mer­cial air­craft to 50 per cent.

“Fifty per cent is the goal (for the com­pany) and at 50 per cent, you’re mak­ing a sig­nif­i­cant im­pact in terms of green­house gas emis­sions,” said Fabi­jan­ski.

As the num­ber of air pas­sen­gers has steadily grown, the avi­a­tion in­dus­try has set as a goal re­duc­ing CO2 emis­sions by 50 per cent com­pared to 2005 lev­els.

The in­dus­try is re­spon­si­ble for two to three per cent of global emis­sions.

Steven Guil­beault, an en­vi­ron­men­tal ac­tivist and co-founder of Equiterre, says Agri­soma’s bio­fuel paves the way for air car­ri­ers to take a sig­nif­i­cant step in re­duc­ing their car­bon foot­print.

“As an ecol­o­gist, what mat­ters to me is that this type of tech­nol­ogy is spread­ing and, as a Que­be­cer, I won’t hide the fact it makes me proud that it was de­vel­oped in our back­yard,” he said.

The head of Cy­cle Cap­i­tal Man­age­ment, one of Agri­soma’s prin­ci­pal in­vestors, didn’t hes­i­tate to pro­mote the virtues of bio­fuel.

“If we put just 10 per cent of this fuel in all the planes around the world, we would ac­com­plish great things,” said An­dree-Lise Methot, the founder of the cleantech ven­ture cap­i­tal fund man­ager.

On top of the avi­a­tion in­dus­try, Methot said one of the main qual­i­ties of Car­i­nata mus­tard is that it can grow on land that is not meant to feed peo­ple.

So un­like ethanol, for ex­am­ple, its cul­ti­va­tion is not done at the ex­pense of food.

Once the oil is ex­tracted from the plant, the residue be­comes a pro­tein-rich byprod­uct that can be used as feed for live­stock.

“Car­i­nata grows when noth­ing grows, it grows in dif­fi­cult con­di­tions, it’s what I call a seed adapted to cli­mate change and, in ad­di­tion, it yields two beau­ti­ful prod­ucts: bio­fuel and or­ganic food for an­i­mals,” she said.


A Car­i­nata mus­tard field is seen in this un­dated hand­out photo. Que­bec-based Agri­soma Bio­sciences Inc. has de­vel­oped a bio­fuel us­ing Car­i­nata, which will make up 30 per cent of the fuel for a United Air­lines flight from San Fran­cisco to Zurich to­day.

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