In a first for an Australian airline, Virgin Australia has launched a trial of environmentally-friendly biodiesel in its ground service equipment.
The initial trial involves using a biodiesel blend derived from locally sourced tallow and used cooking oil (split 20:80 conventional petrodiesel) in a baggage tug and a push-back vehicle at Brisbane Domestic Airport over an eight-week period.
The biodiesel used in the trial is produced by Ecotech Biodiesel at a local facility in Narangba in Queensland and provides a range of environmental benefits including reduced carbon and soot emissions. Refuelling Solutions, another Australian company, is providing logistical support and storage for the trial.
Virgin Australia Group Executive of Operations Sean Donohue said the biodiesel trial supports the airline’s renewable jet fuel strategy to encourage the development of sustainable alternatives to fossil fuel sourced from our region.
“At Virgin Australia, we are committed to reducing the environmental impact of our operations both in the air and on the ground. Using a biodiesel blend in all of our baggage tugs and push-back vehicles would help us reduce the greenhouse emissions generated by our ground operations.
“Biodiesel is commercially available now, cost-competitive with conventional petro-diesel and helps improve our fuel economy. We were also drawn to Ecotech Biodiesel because its activities support Australian jobs, regional Australia and our natural environment.
“Should the trial be successful, we hope to roll out biodiesel to our ground service equipment in Brisbane and other mainline airports. This could lead to a reduction in over 300 tonnes of CO2 per year”, Mr Donohue said.
Biofuels Association of Australia Chief Executive Officer Heather Brodie said: “The trial offers substantial benefits for the environment and regional Australia, while reducing the airline’s reliance on imported fuels. By working with local producer Ecotech Biodiesel, Virgin Australia is actively supporting the development of a sustainable, regionally developed alternative fuel”.
Virgin Australia said the strategy complements its renewable fuel strategy to procure a sustainable, reliable, and economic supply of aviation fuel to meet the airline’s aspirational target of 5% renewable fuel use from 2020.