Two new European projects get off the ground to investigate conversion of forestry residues to jet fuel
KLM will operate an 88-seat Embraer 175 on its new daily biofuel route to Växjö
Thu 17 May 2018 – To mark the introduction of a new daily flight between Amsterdam and Växjö Småland Airport, KLM has announced it will invest in 120,000 litres of sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) per year for use on all flights to and from the destination in southern Sweden. The purchase represents a 5% use of SAF on flights but KLM pledges to make it the airline’s most sustainable route by joining with the airport to buy offsets for the remaining carbon emissions. In addition, KLM and sustainable aviation fuel provider SkyNRG will partner with Växjö airport, the city authority and Sweden’s largest cooperative of forest owners, Södra, to conduct a feasibility study for local SAF production. Meanwhile, following an EU grant of €13.9 million ($16.4m), SkyNRG is also to participate in an industrial consortium that aims to convert softwood residues into gasoline and jet fuel. The project will be led by France’s Global Bioenergies.
The Swedish SAF feasibility study will also assess the financial and commercial availability of an industrial scale production process and secure commitments for long-term supply agreements. SkyNRG points to a very high need for installing production capacity given there is still only one biorefinery in the world – AltAir’s in California – that is producing sustainable jet fuel.
Funds from the offsetting of CO2 from the Amsterdam- Växjö flights will go to the CO2OL Tropical Mix reforestation initiative in Panama, described as a ‘Gold Standard for the Global Goals’ project, which converts degraded meadows into mixed forests by planting a mix of native tree species and some exotic species. In addition, says KLM, the project’s activities create long-term employment thereby providing a sustainable source of income for the local population. The project is supported under KLM’s CO2ZERO voluntary passenger offset programme that has now been running for 10 years.
“KLM is involved intensively in flying as environment friendly as possible, for instance, by investing in sustainable biojet fuel. I am pleased that KLM and Växjö Småland Airport are compensating jointly for the total CO2 emissions of flights to and from Växjö. This makes Växjö – our most sustainable destination – a valuable addition to the KLM network,” said KLM CEO Pieter Elbers.
“It is one more step towards making aviation more sustainable, in which cooperation with local partners is crucial. Support from other companies, governments and other airlines is necessary if we are to make aviation truly sustainable.”
Over 50,000 forest owners are members of the Växjö-headquartered Södra, and own over half of all privately-owned forests in southern Sweden. It is one of the region’s biggest employers – 3,600 people work for the group including in areas such as forestry management and environmental conservation. Södra is also to become KLM’s first non-Dutch partner in its Corporate BioFuel Programme.
“Sweden is a key region for SkyNRG and by investigating the opportunities for sustainable aviation fuel production in the Växjö region, we can contribute to the government’s ambitions for a fossil-free Sweden,” said SkyNRG CFO Theye Veen.
The EU-funded three-year project, called REWOFUEL, will aim to demonstrate technology that can convert poorly valued softwood residues into isobutene derivatives for use in gasoline and jet fuel. The project is being led by Global Bioenergies, which is receiving €5.7 million of the €13.9 million grant under the EU’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme. The total budget for the project, which is being administered by the European Commission’s Innovation and Networks Executive Agency (INEA), is €19.7 million, with the 11 consortium participants contributing the €5.8 million balance. Additionally, REWOFUEL will be supported by numerous industrial companies including Air France and Safran. SkyNRG will evaluate the jet fuel application of the value chain.
Global Bioenergies said the project would set the foundations of a first-of-a-kind biorefinery converting residual wood to high performance drop-in renewable gasoline and jet fuel. “With estimated forestry residues of about 145 million tons per year, the EU has the potential to support the deployment of hundreds of such biorefineries,” it added.
Inaugural KLM biofuel flight arrives in Växjö (photo: KLM):