KLM has announced that it will conduct a demonstration flight on November 23 in which one of the four engines of a Boeing 747 will be powered by a blended mixture of 50% camelina and 50% standard Jet A1 kerosene.
The airline is claiming a world first as passengers will be carried for the first time on a biofuel flight. As yet, biofuels have not been certified for use in commercial operations but in this case the passengers will come from a selected group rather than be fare paying.
Meanwhile, biofuel refining technology supplier Honeywell's UOP has signed an agreement with China National Petroleum Corporation to evaluate Chinese feedstocks for the production of green jet fuels in the country.
Camelina feedstock was used in the Japan Airlines (JAL) biofuel demonstration flight back in January, similarly undertaken on a Boeing 747, although was used in a mixture also containing smaller amounts of jatropha and algae (see story).
Camelina has been touted as a potentially successful source of a sustainable biofuel, given its high oil content and an ability to grow in moderate climates as a rotation crop with wheat and other cereal crops. It is said to be drought-resistant and mostly grown in the northern plains of the US and Canada, and originally comes from northern Europe and central Asia.
Camelina seed pods are the size and shape of a small pea. The seeds are very small, amounting to about 400,000 seeds per pound (approx 182,000 per kg), and they are 40% oil, compared for example to 20% with soybeans.
Although KLM has not disclosed the source of the fuel it is intending to use, the camelina for the JAL flight's biofuel blend was supplied by Montana-based Sustainable Oils. The company says camelina does not displace other crops or compete as a food source and estimates that the state of Montana alone could support between two and three million acres of the crop, generating 200 to 300 million gallons of oil each year.
Following an independent life-cycle analysis, Sustainable Oils reported that results showed that biojet fuel created from camelina seeds developed by the company reduces carbon emissions by up to 84% compared to conventional petroleum jet fuel. [ questionnable].
In September, Sustainable Oils was awarded a contract to supply the US Navy with 40,000 gallons (151,000 litres) of camelina-based jet fuel, with an option included to deliver up to an additional 150,000 gallons (570,000 litres).
Along with its sister Air France, KLM is a member of the Sustainable Aviation Fuel Users Group, formed last year to accelerate the development and commercialization of sustainable aviation fuels.
"This is an important step on the road to completely sustainable aviation," said KLM President & CEO Peter Hartman, commenting on the airline's forthcoming biofuel flight. "KLM has joined forces with its partners to vigorously stimulate the further development of alternative fuels. In so doing, we need to rely on the input and support of all the relevant parties: the business community, government and society at large.''
KLM Managing Director Jan Ernst de Groot added: "In the decades ahead, the airline industry will be largely dependent on the availability of alternative fuels in its drive to lower CO2 emissions."
Meanwhile, Honeywell's UOP, which blended the fuel for JAL and the other biofuel demonstration flights carried out so far using its Ecofining catalytic hydro-processing technology, has announced an agreement with China National Petroleum Corp (CNPC) under which the two companies will collaborate on a range of transportation biofuels technologies and projects in China.
Amongst other initiatives, they will collaborate on the design of an Ecofining unit able to produce both green diesel as well as renewable jet fuel from Chinese biofeedstocks.
CNPC is required to meet renewable energy targets set by the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) of China, and its venture with UOP is aligned with a strategic understanding reached by NDRC and the US Department of Energy and the US Department of Agriculture in 2007 to promote industrial energy efficiency improvements and emissions reductions.
"This collaboration will advance the development of viable renewable fuels for the transport sector in China," said Jennifer Holmgren, General Manager of UOP's Renewable Energy and Chemicals. "Collaboration between governments and private industry is necessary to enable a sustainable biofuels future."