KLM 747 takes off on biofuel flight and announces SkyEnergy consortium to further develop biokerosene fuels
KLM's Boeing 747 biofuel demonstration flight aircraft
Mon 23 Nov 2009 – A KLM Boeing 747 took to the skies today on an hour-long demonstration flight from Amsterdam Schiphol Airport with one of its four GE CF6-80C2 engines using a 50/50 blend of camelina sourced from the United States and conventional Jet A1 fuel. Unlike previous demonstration flights, this flight carried around 40 passengers in addition to crew members, including the Dutch economics affairs minister, KLM CEO Peter Hartman and other VIPs. Around 8,000 litres of camelina-derived jet fuel was supplied by Sustainable Oils and Great Plains and refined by Honeywell’s UOP. After the flight, KLM announced it had formed the SkyEnergy consortium with North Sea Petroleum and Spring Associates to accelerate the development of biokerosene.
Camelina feedstock was used in the Japan Airlines biofuel demonstration flight back in January, similarly undertaken on a Boeing 747, although was used in a mixture also containing smaller amounts of jatropha and algae (see story). Camelina has been touted as a potentially successful source of a sustainable biofuel, given its high oil content and an ability to grow in moderate climates as a rotation crop with wheat and other cereal crops. It is said to be drought-resistant and mostly grown in the northern plains of the US and Canada, and originally comes from northern Europe and central Asia.
“KLM leads the sustainability drive in global aviation. The Netherlands should make good use of this leading position to ensure clean, silent and sustainable air transport worldwide,” said KLM’s Peter Hartman. “This is technically feasible. We have demonstrated that it is possible. Government, industry and society at large must now join forces to ensure that we quickly gain access to a continuous supply of biofuel.”
He said KLM had been involved in biokerosene research since 2007 and the establishment of SkyEnergy would further accelerate development and would hope to achieve a market breakthrough.
“Within the consortium, we have clustered expertise and experience in legislation, ecology and technology, as well as the ability to develop biokerosene in an economically viable manner,” he said. “We are moving forward with great resolve, but cannot do it alone. We need the efforts and support of government, industry and broader society.”
The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) will advise the consortium on ecological aspects. “The establishment of SkyEnergy is a groundbreaking initiative,” commented Johan van de Gronden, Director of WWF Netherlands. “KLM’s demonstration flight serves as a concrete step towards achieving a more sustainable future. We still have a long way to go in relation to biofuels for aviation but by investing in this manner, KLM is once again taking the lead.”
Hartman said biokerosene must be developed in accordance with strict financial, technological and ecological criteria. “The food chain must not be jeopardized, and production of biokerosene should not go hand in hand with deforestation or excessive water consumption,” he maintained. “The conservation of biodiversity is, of course, also a precondition. Our cooperation with WWF is both important and inspirational.”
Dutch-based North Sea Petroleum offers services and products mainly to the shipping industry while Spring Associates provides strategy and business development services.