Qatar Airways recorded a historic first recently, with the news that it successfully carried out a passenger flight powered by a blend of synthetic gas-to-liquids (GTL) and conventional kerosene fuel.

In what could prove to be an important step in the aviation industry’s attempts to lower dependence on oil-based fuel, the airline fuelled the flight with a 50-50 blend of synthetic GTL kerosene and conventional oil-based kerosene.

Qatar Airways also contacted passengers booked for the six-hour flight from London’s Gatwick airport to Doha beforehand and offered them a free alternative flight - in the event that nerves outweighed the desire to be part of history.

Shell developed the 50-50 blend fuel and Gary Woodward, General Manager of operations and technical supply, believes the fuel offers airlines the chance to become less reliant on oil-based fuel.

However, it’s claimed that neither Shell nor other members of the consortium are openly lauding its ability to reduce carbon emissions and are thought to be aware that the fuel blend offers only ‘modest’ emissions benefits.

As the aviation industry has become a target of environmentalists, a number of manufacturers and airlines have reportedly been testing alternative fuels based on substances ranging from coconut oil to algae. At least five test flights using either biofuels or GTL have been carried out over the past two years.

Qatar Airways claims to be the first airline to use GTL kerosene on an ordinary scheduled flight with paying passengers.

Read more about the biofuels sector and its links to the gases business in January’s gasworld magazine, as a whole new year of themes and special features begins in earnest – starting with an exploration of Biofuels and the biofuels debate!