Transatlantic Biofuel Flights Take Off

On March 8, KLM Dutch Airlines flew partially on used cooking oil from Amsterdam to New York, the first of a series of transatlantic weekly flights on biofuels.

Over the next 25 weeks, the plane will fly between New York’s JFK Airport and Amsterdam each Thursday to pilot the use of biofuels blended with petroleum-based jet fuel.

The pilot is a partnership between KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, Delta Air Lines, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and Schiphol Group, which operates airports.

The purpose of the pilot is to increase demand for aviation biofuels to help bring the price down, the biggest barrier to more widespread adoption.

"The potential for biofuel to contribute to our climate change strategy could be quite significant once issues of supply and cost are addressed. This pilot program is a step in the right direction," says Ed Bastian, President of Delta Air Lines.

"Alongside this biofuel series, we are starting a study to further identify sustainability gains in fuel, weight and carbon dioxide reduction throughout the entire flight process. We are striving to achieve the ‘optimal flight’ together with research institutes, suppliers, airports, and air traffic control. We are combining new and existing technology, processes, and efficiency initiatives to achieve this," says Camiel Eurlings, KLM’s Managing Director.

The biofuels come from SkyNRG, a company KLM founded with North Sea Group and Spring Associates in 2009. SkyNRG supplies 15 carriers with biofuels, they say.

The first commercial flights ran partially on biofuels in November 2011. And in October, 2012, the first civilian jet flew for an hour powered by 100% renewable biofuel. A demonstration project will take that a step closer to commercialization of 100% drop-in renewable replacement for jet, diesel, and gasoline fuels.

In March, competitors Airbus, Boeing and Brazil’s Embraer announced they will work together to develop affordable biofuels for the airplane industry.

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