KLM looks to used cooking oil to power a programme of 200 commercial biofuel flights from September
KLM carried out a sustainable biofuel demonstration flight in November 2009 (photo: KLM)
Tue 28 June 2011 – Following imminent ASTM certification of oil-derived aviation biofuels, KLM has followed Lufthansa’s lead in announcing a programme of scheduled commercial flights that will use bio-blended jet fuels. The KLM programme involves the use of a 50 per cent blended bio-kerosene on 200 Boeing 737 flights between Amsterdam and Paris starting in September and will last for several months. Instead of the mainly plant-based biofuel that Lufthansa will be using, KLM has sourced synthetic jet fuel from the United States made from used cooking oil. It is being supplied by SkyNRG, a consortium set up by KLM in 2009 to develop a sustainable production chain for aviation biofuels, and produced by Dynamic Fuels at its plant in Louisiana, from where it will be shipped to Europe just prior to commencement of operations.
KLM has been a European forerunner in the development of sustainable aviation fuels and in November 2009 carried out a Boeing 747 demonstration flight using a fuel sourced from the camelina plant (see article).
According to KLM Biofuel Director Thijs Komen, the biofuel for the 200-flight programme will largely be centred on used cooking oil but the airline is looking to use other feedstocks as well. “We are open to any, as long as they meet our sustainability criteria,” he says. That criteria includes substantial reductions in CO2 emissions and minimum negative impact on biodiversity and food supply.
Sustainability is a key issue for KLM, and SkyNRG is being advised by an independent Sustainability Board, consisting of the Dutch wing of the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF-NL), Solidaridad and the Copernicus Institute of the University of Utrecht. It says the sustainability of alternative jet fuel depends on many factors, which are judged on a case by case basis.
SkyNRG describes itself as a unique feedstock-to-flight, one-stop shop for airlines by integrating the complete sustainable jet fuel supply chain, which covers selection of feedstock, refining contracts, logistics to any airport in the world, quality assurance, into-plane fuel service, insurance, marketing and project funding with airports and end customers.
“In this way, to embrace this new fuel era, we have tried to make the entry barrier for airlines as low as possible,” says Managing Director Dirk Kronemeijer. “Ideally, we want to see as many airlines as possible starting a green route in 2011 to maximise engagement with public, investors, government and other stakeholders. This will help to focus R&D efforts, accelerate industry scale-up and enable favourable changes in legislation, further driving this industry towards a real tipping point.”
The company says it has refining relationships in place and “solid” distribution partners onboard in both Europe and the United States. Kronemeijer promises further announcements with other carriers shortly.
The biofuel for Lufthansa’s series of flights between Hamburg and Frankfurt is being supplied by Neste Oils in Finland. KLM and SkyNRG have had to further afield for its source.
“In the early stages there are only a few refiners able to deliver the Jet-A1 specification, although we are not exclusively focused on one refiner or one technology,” explains KLM’s Komen. “Dynamic Fuels has been a very constructive partner so far.”
A joint venture between Tyson Foods and Syntroleum, Dynamic Fuels generally uses non-food grade animal fats and greases as sources for its synthetic jet fuel, which it has already supplied for testing and certification purposes to the US Air Force Research Laboratory, Rolls-Royce and Cessna Aircraft.
The company, which is targeting the diesel, jet and military markets, started production at its new Geismar facility in November 2010. It uses Syntroleum’s Bio-Synfining technology to produce the renewable fuels from non-food grade animal fats produced or procured by Tyson Foods, such as beef tallow, pork lard, chicken fat and greases. The plant is designed to produce up to 75 million gallons of renewable fuels per year.
Dynamic Fuels claims its fuels have a 75% lower carbon footprint compared to similar petroleum products and have very low NOx and sulphur emissions. The company declined to reveal the amount of fuel it is supplying for the KLM programme.
“We are one step further on our way to sustainable aviation, but many challenges lie ahead,” says Thijs Komen. “We need the whole industry and policy-makers to work together to make aviation biofuels a sustainable solution.”