The Boeing U-787 unlimited hydroplane has become the world’s first to be powered by 100 percent sustainable biofuel during a demonstration run by legendary hydroplane driver Chip Hanauer at the annual Chevrolet Cup at Seafair. The majority (85%) of the biofuel blend was refined from the energy crop camelina (developed by Seattle’s Targeted Growth and grown in eastern Washington and Montana), as well as jatropha (14%) and algae oil (1%). This same biofuel mixture helped to power the test flight of a Japan Airlines Boeing 747-300 in January 2009.
The U-787 boat ran four successful test runs throughout the Seafair weekend, each with a greater percentage of biofuel, culminating in the 100 percent biofuel run on Sunday. Hanauer tested the engine’s performance during normal operating conditions, which included quick accelerations, decelerations and cornering in a variety of water conditions. No modifications to the hydroplane or its engine were required for this biofuel mix, which is a ‘drop-in’ replacement for petroleum-based fuel. The boat’s engine has the same fuel and fuel performance requirements as a commercial airliner.
"I think it's great that Boeing is using a racing venue to demonstrate to our culture that biofuel development is all about performance," said Hanauer. "Performance, innovation and sustainability, a great combination!"
Well suited for a sustainable biofuel crop, Targeted Growth’s camelina naturally contains high oil content; its oils are low in saturated fat; it is drought resistant and requires less fertilizer and herbicides. Most importantly, it is an excellent rotation crop with wheat, and it can also grow in marginal land. Camelina does not displace other crops or compete as a food source. According to a Life Cycle Analysis (LCA) conducted by Michigan Technology University, camelina-based jet fuel reduces carbon emissions by more than 80 percent compared to petroleum-based jet fuel.
“As a Seattle-based company, it was a thrill for us to participate in such an iconic local tradition as Seafair and to play a role in creating new sustainable fuel sources for the industry,” said Tom Todaro, CEO of Targeted Growth. “Camelina continues to prove its potential as a high quality, sustainable and well-performing feedstock, whether it’s the tanks of a 747 at 30,000 feet in the air or in a hydro at sea level.”
“This hydroplane demonstration run is another successful step in our efforts to showcase the potential for sustainable biofuels to reduce emissions from air travel without sacrificing safety, performance and efficiency,” said Mike Garrett, director, Aircraft Performance, Boeing Commercial Airplanes.