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Flying From Schiphol to Paris on Cooking Oil

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From Schiphol to Paris: Flying on Cooking Oil
Mar 05, 2012

Last September Dutch carrier KLM launched a new initiative, “sanctioned” by the World Wide Fund for Nature, that saw the first flights leave Amsterdam Airport Schiphol for Paris-Charles de Gaulle using a blend of used cooking oil as alternative to the more usual jet engine fuel.

KLM wants to study the feasibility of using such alternative fuels that are not based on CO2 carbon dioxide emitting, fossil kerosene types of fuel. In their recent press release KLM stated that the carrier had been involved in research since 2007, testing a variety of biofuels that had been produced in a sustainable way. Now the carrier plans to demonstrate with some 200 flights that it can be done and done in a cost effective way.

The Dutch carrier also voiced their hopes that other airlines would soon follow suit. It seems that so far Continental Airlines are the first to join in, although it has to be said that United Airline’s sister company also tried out the feasibility of biofuels when they performed their first flight on a commercial aircraft fuelled with biofuel in the USA last November.

Having negotiated the supply of some 20 million gallons of biofuel with new partners Solazyme, United Airlines and their subsidiary Continental Airlines are set to continue this new trend in the aviation industry.

Meanwhile, in the US carrier Virgin Atlantic Airways have teemed up with LanzaTech to create a jet fuel with only half the carbon dioxide emissions that current jet fuels produce. When all the trials have been conducted, Virgin Atlantic Airways will use the new biofuel to perform flights between their routes Delhi, Shanghai and London Heathrow, it was announced in October 2011.

Virgin Atlantic Airways has been experimenting with a biofuel blend of some 20% of babassu nuts and coconut with 80% conventional jet fuel. This fuel blend was tested on a 747 flight from London to Amsterdam Airport Schiphol, using a single engine for the test. The babassu nut usage is controversial, since the nut grows on the babassu palm that is native to the Amazon region of Brazil, adding even more strain on the natural resources of South American rainforests.

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) is under obligation to assist with the ambitious goal to cut carbon emissions for their industry by at least 50% by 2050. Having long been an advocate, aided by the efforts of the International Civil Aviation Organization, for a global change of mind with regard to sustainable sources of fuel, the IATA was full of praise for carriers who started to use biofuels, even if IATA had some reservations about the effective exploitation of such alternative fuels.

British Airways and the Solena Group are involved in the construction of a sustainable jet fuel plant in East London and BA hopes to eventually use the biofuel it creates to power at least part of its fleet, commencing in 2014.

IATA’s director Mr Tony Tyler believes that biofuels could be the next huge change for the aviation industry, if some considerable hurdles could be overcome first. “We need positive economic measures that result from strategic government decisions to support the growth of green economies, including aviation,” he said in a recent statement.

He commented that the big oil companies still needed to get behind the idea and that a sufficient policy framework of fiscal and legal incentives would be needed to encourage the commercial utilization of such fuels on a large scale.

At present, jet fuel is a mixture of several different components based on a variety of hydrocarbons. It is believed that the aviation industry as a whole is responsible for 2% of all the man-made carbon dioxide emissions on the planet. The aircraft manufacturer Boeing is of the opinion that the introduction of biofuels would help to reduce aviation industry carbon emissions by at least 60%, if not 80%.

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