KLM Flies into Sustainable Air Transport

KLMMG_4909Is that the smell of bio-kerosene in the air? If you were one of the passengers on KLM Royal Dutch Airline’s first passenger flight powered by bio-kerosene this week, then you were also one of the first to get a whiff of this new sustainable fuel, if indeed it is whiff-able.

The Netherlands airline underscored its Boeing 747 biofuels test flight with an announcement that it has formed a joint venture to develop sustainable biofuels on a large scale. Called SkyEnergy, the consortium includes KLM, North Sea Petroleum and Spring Associates. In addition, the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) will advise the consortium about the ecological aspects of the venture.

Peter Hartman, KLM’s president and CEO, says the airline wants to ensure “clean, silent and sustainable air transport worldwide. 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 continuous supply of biofuel.”

KLM is pursuing bio-kerosene in accordance with strict financial, technological and ecological criteria, the airline states. “The food chain may not be jeopardized, and production of bio-kerosene should not go hand in hand with deforestation or excessive water consumption,” Hartman explains. “The conservation of biodiversity is, of course, also a precondition. Our cooperation with WWF is both important and inspirational.”

Johan van de Gronden, director of WWF The Netherlands, calls SkyEnergy “a groundbreaking initiative. 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.”

Indeed the airline has been involved in bio-kerosene research since 2007.

Maybe KLM is leading the sustainability drive in global aviation, but there are many other airlines also moving on the biofuels front with a variety of different biofuels under study.

The formation of SkyEnergy accelerates jet biofuel research and development and takes its potential for eventual commercialization to a new and economically viable level.

KLM admits a “market breakthrough” is needed on the flight path to completely sustainable aviation. It adds that its resolve can’t exist in a vacuum: The efforts and support of government, industry and “broader society” are needed. But is bio-kerosene the best and brightest?  How about jatropha, camelina, algae and babassu palm and coconut oil? All of those have their champions in the aviation industry.

It doesn’t seem like jetting off on various biofuel projects for air transport is the best way to fly.

Can anyone say Amsterdam?

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