Dovetailing 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 BusinessWeek.com.
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?