In line with its eco-friendly initiative to use alternative fuel, Royal Dutch Airlines’ KLM has announced that regular flights between New York and Amsterdam would be flying on a mix of cooking oil-based biofuel and jet fuel. That’s right, cooking oil. The special mix of 25% used cooking oil and 75% jet fuel would be used once a week on a Boeing 777. The program is part of a test to be conducted over 25 roundtrip flights across the Atlantic. Every Thursday for the next six months, a regularly scheduled transatlantic flight will be using the 25%-75% mix.
Flying on Biofuel
KLM has been working with cooking oil since 2009. On November 23, 2009, it flew the first demonstration flight with passengers. During the flight, the plane had one engine running on a 50% biofuel mix with camelina oil. This was followed on June 9, 2011 with a flight from Amsterdam to Paris with 171 paying passengers. This was the first ever commercial flight with a biofuel powered plane. The biofuel used was recycled cooking oil.
The KLM transatlantic flights are a part of the continuing testing that KLM is doing. They aim to have a 1% mix of sustainable biofuel for all planes by 2015.
Higher Costs for Now
Like most technologies, the initial phase will be expensive as cooking oil is not cheap. The used oil is from Louisiana, where it is refined, and trucked to New York. The cost of the fuel is about $10 per gallon, which is more than three times the cost of jet fuel. Most of the cost goes to refining and preparing the used oil for use with jet engines. With wider use, it is expected that the cost of used oil for jet engines should become cheaper in the long term.
As far as the pilots are concerned, they find no difference in the performance between using the biofuel mix and using regular jet fuel.
Restaurants and other food establishments in New York City produce between 40 million to 50 millions gallons of used oil a year. However, the oil is used as fuel for diesel trucks or for home heating fuel.
With biofuels and innovative technologies, KLM has shown its commitment to a lower carbon footprint, as well as to recycling fuel.