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Etihad Airways makes first long haul flight on biofuel

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Emirati airline Etihad Airways flew its first commercial flight powered only by locally produced biofuel last week.

Flying from Abu Dhabi to Amsterdam, the Boeing 787 used biofuel that had been produced from the oil of Salicornia plants. The plants are grown in the Seawater Energy and Agricultural System (SEAS) in Masdar City near the UAE capital, Abu Dhabi.

Group Chief Executive Officer Etihad Aviation Group, Tony Douglas, said: “This is a significant milestone for the UAE and its key industries. Etihad is fully committed to this project which demonstrates a successful proof of concept that is local, viable, cost-effective and sustainable.

Douglas continued, “Decarbonisation is important across the aviation industry and, together with our partners, Etihad is proud to be at the forefront of this pioneering new research.”

Etihad Airways states that the SEAS project is the world’s first desert ecosystem made solely to produce fuel and food in saltwater. Although not the first airline to use biofuels to fly, this was the first time that an aircraft in the UAE used biofuel grown and produced in its own country.

Vice-president of strategy and market development for Boeing International, Sean Schwinn said, “Etihad’s flight proves SEAS is a game changer that can substantially benefit air transport and the world.”

“The research and technology being developed shows significant promise to transform costal deserts into productive farmland supporting food security and cleaner skies,” added Schwinn.

Dr Thani bin Ahmed Al Zeyoudi, Minister of Climate Change and Environment said, “The UAE’s visionary leadership is strongly committed to positioning the country as a global hub for innovation and sustainability. Deep decarbonisation of energy-intensive industries has a ripple effect on food security and climate action.”