KLM, First Commercial Biofuel Flight

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A Boeing 737-800 carrying 171 passengers out of Amsterdam for Paris Wednesday moved KLM to say it was "the first airline in the world" to operate a commercial flight on biokerosene (a used cooking oil, Jet-A mix), with more to come. KLM said that by September 2011, it will begin 200 more flights, flying the same route, and using the same 50-50 blend of fuel. Details regarding regulatory issues are not yet clear. The biofuel portion of the fuel mixture that KLM used for this latest flight was not derived from the camonila or jatropha plants. (The plants have earned attention for their high oil content and low agricultural impact.) KLM used a cooking-oil-based fuel produced by Dynamic Fuels, a joint venture between Syntroleum and Tyson Foods.

KLM's biokerosene was created from non-food-grade animal fat supplied as a byproduct of Tyson Food's meat processing plants. That product was refined into biofuel by Dynamic Fuel at that company's facility in Louisiana. KLM first made a biofuel-powered flight roughly 18 months ago, taking forty VIPs on a 90-minute flight. That particular trip only fed the biofuel mix to one engine. Virgin Atlantic, British Airways and Continental have all flown commercial airliners fueled, at least in part, with biofuels. European airlines are particularly motivated to find a fossil-fuel alternative due to a limit set by the European Union. That limit calls for airlines to cut their carbon emissions by 3 percent in 2012. The flights show progress for biofuels, but according to KLM managing director Camiel Eurlings, "The costs of biofuels need to come down substantially and permanently." Said Eurlings, "This can be achieved through innovation, collaboration and the right legislation that stimulates biofuel in the airline industry, but with an eye on honest competition."