Although many of the biofuels we report on in Design News are crop-based or derived from biomass such as plant wastes, we've also told you about biofuels derived from used cooking oil. Now, a weekly commercial transatlantic flight has begun with jets that run on the stuff.
On March 8, KLM Royal Dutch Airlines made its first regular jaunt using biofuel derived from recycled cooking oil. The plane, a Boeing 777-200, flew from Amsterdam Airport Schiphol to New York's JFK Airport. The weekly flights on KLM Flight 642 will transport passengers in the opposite direction, from New York to Amsterdam.
The achievement fulfills KLM's goal to use biofuel in 1 percent of its flights by 2015. It also represents the culmination of several years of testing and experimentation, including algae-derived fuel and bio-kerosene. The current jet fuel is a blend of biofuel derived from used cooking oil, which is equivalent to a bio-kerosene, and regular jet fuel, according to a blog on KLM's website. The biofuel content is somewhat less than 50 percent of the blend due to the limitations of supply, but up to 50 percent is allowable.
KLM Royal Dutch Airlines has begun weekly transatlantic flights from New York to Amsterdam using biofuel made from used cooking oil. (Source: KLM Royal Dutch Airlines)
Last June, KLM Flight 705, KLM's first transatlantic flight on biofuel, carried government delegations on a Boeing 777-200 from Amsterdam to Rio de Janeiro for the United National Conference on Sustainable Development. Like Flight 642, this flight used fuel supplied by SkyNRG, which KLM co-founded in 2009 with Spring Associates and ARGOS (North Sea Petroleum). The fuel, which SkyNRG supplies to 15 carriers throughout the world, is made by US-based Dynamic Fuels.
The biofuel based on used cooking oil is the first to be approved by the Roundtable on Sustainable Biofuels as a 100-percent certified renewable jet fuel. The Roundtable is an international initiative consisting of farmers, governments, and non-governmental organizations interested in promoting sustainable biofuels. It uses third-party certification bodies to guarantee high standards in sustainability and working conditions throughout the biofuel production process.
Last year, KLM formed a partnership with a number of corporations that allows them to fly on flights powered by biofuel for a certain proportion of their total contracted flight volume, or on specific flight routes. The Biofuel Programme is intended to reduce the carbon footprint of the aviation industry and promote further biofuels development. Partners include Heineken, Siemens, Philips, and Nike.
Although from a fuels standpoint this isn't as cutting-edge as the 100-percent non-food jet biofuel we told you about used in a civil jet Canadian flight, it may be potentially farther-reaching. The combination of a major airline, the corporate biofuel program, and the transatlantic commercial flights will go a long way toward raising the visibility of biofuels and the reality of their use, not just their potential.
I don't think government incentives or disincentives in themselves will be nearly as powerful an effect on supply and demand as popular demand to change fuels--this has already happened in plastics by making bioplastics a major alternative because of consumer demand. Consumer demand to change materials such as fuels and plastics is, in fact, behind much of the corporate sustainability "movement." This is less visible here in the US than in many other countries, such as European ones, and Japan.
I agree, Ann. When you factor in the carbon footprint you end up with a completely different story. At some point, government incentives and disincentives will likely distort the world of supply and demand. Also, there's the possibility one of the arternatives may hit a breakthrough that will give it a game-changing cost advantage.
Supply and demand, if that's all that was going on, would in fact work as you said regarding pricing. But that's not all that's going on with alternative fuels vs petroleum-based fuels. They don't exist in a vacuum, as so much modern so-called economics theory seems to assume. In fact, alternative fuels exist not only because petro-based fuel supplies were declining, but more importantly, because of the carbon footprint problem. That has not disappeared.
It's supply and demand, Ann. The less oil the world consumes, the lower the price. The boom in Asia, particularly China, is what drove up prices in the last decade.
During the Carter Administration, pressue on the American people to conserve energy worked. Add to that additional exploration powered by the high price of oil. And add to that a recession that supressed demand. Oil fell to $19 a barrell. Half of Texas went broke.
Recently, the Saudi's expressed concern that if the price of oil stays above $80 per barrell, the world will move to alternative energy sources. If we turn aggressively to alternative sources, the demnd for oil will go down, and likewise the cost of oil.
The nice thing about gas turbines is that they can run on many different fuels - even the exhaust from internal combustion engines. With the prevalence of fried foods this is a good use of used cooking oils. Heck, the airline could serve chicken fried steak, french fries, and deep fried Oreo's and run a fuel line from the fryer (through a filter) down to the engines...
Ann, I hope we run into the problem of used cooking oil becoming scarce. That will mean we're making full use out of a material that had previously gone to waste. The funny thing is, once alternative fuels become widely used, the cost of oil will likely go down, making it attractive all over again.
Although I didn't see any lifecycle analysis (LCA) figures for the fuel KLM is using, if it has an overall lower carbon footprint than petro-based fuel, then it's greener. You can find more details about the fuel at its manufacturer's website: http://www.dynamicfuelsllc.com/
Rob, if you mean that it's a limited resource, well sure, so are all fuels or energy sources. OTOH, there's a lot of it going to waste right now that could be used for fuel. And the McDonald's story shows how a closed-loop system would work if more restaurant chains participated in their own reuse strategies: http://www.designnews.com/author.asp?section_id=1392&doc_id=257392
A recent report sponsored by the American Chemistry Council (ACC) focuses on emerging gasification technologies for converting waste into energy and fuel on a large scale and saving it from the landfill. Some of that waste includes non-recycled plastic.
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