Flying High on Algae – KLM Tests Algae-Based Kerosene for Airplane Fuel

KLM and other airlines look to alternatives to the high price of fossil fuelDovetailing nicely into my post last week about the work GreenFuel is doing with algae and their emissions-to-fuel process, air carrier KLM reported last week their intention to begin testing airplanes that run on an algae-based fuel.

In a pilot program with AlgaeLink, a Netherlands-based global manufacturer of algae growing equipment and “earth-to-engine” technology, KLM expects to conduct test flights this fall. AlgaeLink will also open two plants this year in the Netherlands and Spain.

KLM hopes to have 12 of their Fokker-50 planes (7% of their air fleet) running on the fuel by 2010, with the eventual goal of running their entire fleet of airplanes on fuel made from algae.

The cost of fuel is an increasing burden on the bottom line for airlines all over the world. In 2012 airlines in Europe will be required to pay for their CO2 emissions. At $100 a barrel, algae will then become not only the carbon neutral choice, but the most cost effective one as well.

Looking for Alternatives

Other airlines looking into algae as a potential fuel source include JetBlue who, in partnership with Honeywell, Airbus, and International Aero Engines, are developing plans to develop fuels using vegetation and algae-based oils that “do not compete with existing food production or water resources”, according to a report in

Other technologies to ease fuel costs and lighten the carbon footprint of commercial aviation are planes that run on batteries and hydrogen fuel cells.

It’s unlikely that we’ll be climbing aboard an airliner powered only with batteries and fuel cells anytime soon, but Airbus demonstrated a version of their A320 airliner that used fuel cells to power steering systems aboard the aircraft at the Berlin Air Show last week.

The times are changing for the airlines (as well as the rest of us). With the ever rising cost of oil, it makes both environmental as well as economic sense to seek alternatives to fossil fuel, and to put those projects on the fast-track.

You think your gas bill is high? Ever fill the tank of a 757?

Tom is the founder, editor, and publisher of and the TDS Environmental Media Network. He has been a contributor for Triple Pundit since 2007. Tom has also written for Slate, Earth911, the Pepsico Foundation, Cleantechnia, Planetsave, and many other sustainability-focused publications. He is a member of the Society of Environmental Journalists

7 responses

  1. Yeah, there’s some real exciting stuff happening in this area. The book by Fred Krupp (that I reference in this post: is a great source for what’s happening at the forefront of energy innovation.
    Another aspect that’s interesting is how these alternative energy sources are looking more and more attractive purely in an economic sense given the current situation with oil.

  2. algae for fuel. i have experience since 1962 mass culture of algae and cheap harvest of solid algae as feed for animals. i have experience as chemist converting coal to diesel at fort lewis wa, src .
    my comment is we need to combine all available cheap,clean energy sources.
    i can distill heptane from logging waste and from stumps. i can convert by hydrogenation to liquid hydrocarbons local coal plus lignite and peat.i can distill and hydrogenize weeds and other unused organic materials. i can locate on usgs maps waterfalls which can be used for hydroelectric power for electric vehicles and for electrolysis of water for hydrogen, using the electricity nearby for heating the conversion of solid coal etc to liquid fuels.

  3. The problem is when stuff gets really mature and competitive the oil tycoons will lower the oil prices sharply. that will devastate every biofuel effort immediatly rendering it unprofitable. then the oil prices will go up again. oil reserves are harvested in a very controlled way. production is tightly controlled in order to keep prices at their current level.

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