Commercial flight uses fuel produced from natural gas

Qatar Airways completed the first commercial flight this week using fuel produced from natural gas, the company said.

The flight used fuel from the Pearl GTL plant in Qatar, through a partnership between the airline and the plant, jointly owned by Qatar Petroleum and Shell.

The fuel was made from a blend of gas-to-liquids kerosene and conventional oil-derived jet fuel. It powered an Airbus A340-600 on a flight from Doha to London, the companies said in a statement.

Shell says its gas-to-liquids products have fewer emissions than conventional jet fuel and are more environmentally friendly. The gas-to-liquids kerosene can comprise up to half of a fuel blend to power a commercial airliner, Shell said.

Qatar Airways CEO Akhbar Al Baker said in a statement that the airline is attempting to lead the industry into cleaner fuels.

“As the world talks and preaches environmentally friendly skies, we at Qatar Airways are setting the bar high for others to follow,” Al Baker said. “We are shifting the goalposts. We are setting an example by doing our part, by committing ourselves to be at the forefront of innovative research.”

The Pearl GTL complex in Qatar is the world’s largest plant capable of transforming natural gas into other fuels and is the largest single asset in Shell’s portfolio, involving more than $18 billion in investment, according to the statement. It made its first commercial shipment in 2011.

Because of the abundance of low-priced natural gas in the United States, Shell is exploring the possibility of building a GTL plant on the Gulf Coast.

Shell has invested more than $21 billion in Qatar over the last six years, making it the country’s largest foreign investor, according to the announcement.