Air New Zealand to test biofuel next month

Air New Zealand will make its first commercial flight using biofuels next month as it looks to cut fuel consumption and carbon emissions, the national carrier said on Wednesday.

The flight on Dec. 3 out of Auckland will use a 50:50 blend of standard jet fuel and a biofuel made from the jatropha plant in a Rolls Royce engine on a Boeing 747-400, the airline added.

"The blended fuel meets the essential requirement of being a 'drop-in' fuel, meaning its properties will be virtually indistinguishable from traditional Jet A1 fuel," said Air NZ's chief pilot, David Morgan, in a statement.

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Jatropha is a plant that grows up to three metres and produces inedible nuts, which contain the oil. It is grown on arid and marginal land in Africa.

Air New Zealand told Reuters in June it hoped to use one million barrels of biofuel a year, about 10 percent of its fuel consumption, in its jet fleet by 2013.

Shares in Air NZ, about three-quarters owned by the New Zealand government, last traded steady at NZ$0.91, in an overall weaker market.

British-based Virgin Atlantic used a bio-jet fuel blend made from babassu and coconut oils in a commercial flight in February. ($1=NZ$1.75) (Reporting by Glen Johnson and Gyles Beckford, Editing by Mark Bendeich)

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