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SpiceJet Operates India's First Test Flight Powered by Bio-Fuel

Scientists said with the successful operation of the flight, the demand for about 300 oil-producing seeds, including Jetropha, would grow manifold, bringing good news for farmers.

Anupam Trivedi | News18

Updated:August 27, 2018, 4:21 PM IST
SpiceJet Operates India's First Test Flight Powered by Bio-Fuel
Uttarakhand chief minister Trivendra Singh Rawat oversees the first bio-fuel powered flight.

New Delhi/Dehradun: India's first test flight powered by bio-fuel and operated by SpiceJet landed at Delhi airport on Monday.

The flight, which was operated from Dehradun to Delhi, was flagged off by Uttarakhand chief minister Trivendra Rawat and developed by the Indian Institute of Petroleum (IIP). It was received by Union minister Nitin Gadkari and the airline’s top management at IGI Airport Terminal 2.

Globally, bio-fuel powered flights are operated in Canada. A source said government officials had monitored the parameters set up for such a test flight.

The development assumes significance as high air turbine fuel (ATF) prices have dented India's domestic airline sector with all the major players reporting losses for the first quarter of 2018-19. Currently, fuel prices constitute 45-50 per cent of the overall operations cost of domestic airlines.

IIP scientists said with the successful operation of the flight, the demand for about 300 oil-producing seeds, including Jetropha, would grow manifold, spelling good news for farmers.

Director Dr Anjan Kumar Ray said the concept of running vehicles from bio-fuel made of Jethropha seeds was introduced in 2003 but there were not many takers, which led to losses for farmers. “We have been working on green fuel for vehicles but some seven years back, we started working towards developing bio aviation fuel for commercial flights since it is a potential area where the demand for bio fuel will never come down,” Ray told News18.

However, not only was it difficult for the institute to get approvals but aviation companies too were hesitant to join hands. In 2013, the aviation fuel developed by IIP was tested on Pratt & Whitney engine in Canada.

“There was no issue with the flight and this is when we decided that it was a doable exercise. In 2016, IIP tied up with Chhattisgarh’s bio-fuel development authority. We worked hard and Chhattisgarh also played a major role,” added Ray.

Dr Anand, who is heading the team of 22 scientists at IIP working on bio aviation fuel, said the commercial flight would open avenues for farmers besides cutting down the carbon footprint.

India’s ATF prices are amongst the highest in the world due to the addition of state levies and taxes. The fuel is not under the GST ambit unlike the bunker fuel used in the shipping industry. Besides, the success of the flight will pave the way for further testing and aide in fulfilling the central government's move to curtail India's dependence on crude oil imports.

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