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Forest Residuals Power Transcontinental Flight

ORG XMIT: WADZ201 In this photo made Thursday, June 11, 2009, an Alaska Airlines airliner is pushed away from a gate at SeaTac Airport in SeaTac, Wash. Alaska Air Group Inc., operator of Alaska Airlines and Horizon Air, said Thursday. July 23, its second-quarter profit plunged 53.9 percent to $29.1 million as sales slipped 9.3 percent.(AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

Alaska Airlines uses forest byproducts to create biofuel for flight to Washington, D.C.

Alaska Airlines is once again experimenting with biofuels to power commercial aircraft by using byproducts from foresting operations to fly across the United States. In a post on their website, the Seattle-based airline announced the successful flight of an Alaska aircraft powered partially by forest residuals.

The flight departed from Alaska’s home airport of Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA) the morning of Monday, November 14, landing successfully at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA) in the afternoon. The flight was powered by a fuel consisting of 20 percent biofuel produced by the forest byproduct.

The fuel itself was produced by a 32-member consortium of companies known as the Northwest Advanced Renewables Alliance, led by researchers at Washington State University. Working with the alliance, renewable chemical company Gevo refined the fuel from the forest residuals by converting cellustoic sugars in the wood into isobutanol, which was then converted into jet fuel. The fuel confirmed to ASTM standards, which allowed it to be used on the inaugural commercial flight. According to Alaska, the flight marks the first time forest byproducts have been used in an aviation biofuel.

“Using forest residuals for biofuel feedstock is exciting because it does not compete with food production,” the airline wrote on their website. “Air pollution is cut by reducing slash pile burning; removal of residuals prepares the forest floor for replanting; and the new industry of woody biomass collection and conversion helps create jobs in rural economies.”

The flight marks the second time Alaska has used biofuels in part to power their commercial aircraft. In June, the airline operated two flights powered by a biofuel created from non-edible corn.

[Photo: David Zalubowski/AP]

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