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.
Cooking oil into jet fuel sounds like a worthy effort, although I would rather that any risks of engine problems were more down to earth. I think that I have seen the process done in a "garage lab", my recollection is that it used a hot plate, and I have no idea what else. So how much energy is needed for the conversion as opposed to refining it from crude oil? Does anybody know? Or is it just that used cooking oil is a renewable resource, and quite an inexpensive feedstock?
Rob, jet fuel, whether petro-based, bio-based or a blend, is a quite different formulation from fuels made for automobile engines. Also, the fuel used depends on whether those engines were modified. In most cases, the oil has to be processed to various extents before it's usable as fuel.
I would expect the fryer oil supply to slowly dwindle as big brother forces us to give up fried food (bad for your health). Maybe this will change their minds and allow us to eat fried food to help fuel the planes!
Ann, do you have access to any volume numbers regarding this fuel? For instance, what capacity is the KLM jet, and what capacity a typical fast food fryer has (and how often the fryer oil gets changed)? It would give us an idea of how far-reaching this fuel will be?
The practices of Willie Nelson and Neil Young can't be all bad. Both of those muscians have used old cooking oil to fuel their tour busses. But let's hope the pilots on the transatlantic fights are using a different fuel from that used by Willie and Neil to power themselves.
Thanks, Elizabeth, I appreciate your enthusiasm. And I enjoy finding and writing these stories. Although the subject is very different from robotics, these achievements also remind me of a lot of science fiction I read in the 60s ands 70s.
You know by now I'm sure that I love reading about these stories. This is great news. I know a few people with cars that run on used cooking oil, so it's good to see it being used on a larger scale. And you're right, it's such a high-profile story it should get others looking more seriously at biofuels if they haven't already. Thanks for keeping up with this coverage.
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