KLM tests bio-jet fuel with passengers on board

By Susanne Retka Schill | November 20, 2009
Posted November 24, 2009

Dutch airline KLM took the lastest step within the aviation industry towards using biofuel blends with a Nov. 23 test flight. A first for Europe, and the first with a select group of passengers on board, the Boeing 747 used a 50 percent biofuel blend and 50 percent traditional kerosene in one engine.

"This is an important step on the road to completely sustainable aviation," said KLM CEO Peter Hartman. "KLM has joined forces with its partners to vigorously stimulate the further development of alternative fuels. In so doing, we need to rely on the input and support of all the relevant parties: the business community, government and society at large.''

On the day of the test flight, KLM also announced the formation of a SkyEnergy consortium with North Sea Petroleum and Spring Associates to boost the move towards sustainable air transport. "This is technically feasible," Hartman said. "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."

The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) will advise the consortium on ecological aspects. Johan van de Gronden, director of WWF- Netherlands, called the establishment of SkyEnergy a groundbreaking initiative. " 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," he said. "KLM has been involved in biokerosene research since 2007. With the establishment of SkyEnergy, we are accelerating development and 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. We are moving forward with great resolve, but cannot do it alone. We need the efforts and support of government, industry and broader society."

Great Plains � the Camelina Co. said it had supplied camelina for the bio-based jet fuel used in the KLM test flight. Great Plains is working with its partners to develop a 100 percent camelina jet fuel that is compatible with today's jet engine technology. The company pointed to a study released earlier this year that showed from crop-to-air, jet fuel made from camelina cuts greenhouse gas emissions by up to 84 percent.
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