May 26, 2008

KLM to fly on algae

Dutch airline KLM has announced plans to fuel its planes with kerosene made from algae. The company has signed an exclusive contract with the Dutch company AlgaeLink to provide fuel for a pilot project which will begin this fall, when the first test flight will take place. AlgaeLink is opening two plants this year, one in the Netherlands and another in Spain.

KLM Fokker-50The algal-based kerosene will in first instance be mixed with conventional fuel; KLM's goal is to fuel its entire fleet with kerosene from algae and other plant-based oils.

The Dutch carrier says if all goes according to plan 12 Fokker-50 planes - representing seven percent of KLM's fleet - will fly on fuel derived from algae by 2010.

Increased fuel costs
Recently the CEO of Air France-KLM, Jean-Cyril Spinetta, expressed his concern about an estimated increase in fuel costs to the airline of 1.2 billion euros a year. The price of kerosene has risen by 55 percent so far this year, a serious blow to the airline industry.

Moreover in 2012 European airlines will have to pay extra for their CO2 emissions. Since algal-based fuel is CO2-neutral and is cost-effective when the price of oil passes the 100-dollar-per-barrel mark (oil is now trading at 135 dollars per barrel) KLM expects the fuel will save the company hundreds of millions of euros a year.

AlgaeLink's Managing Director, Hans van de Ven, says he is negotiating with the world's largest cruise liner to build an algae-growing and oil-extraction system on a cruise ship.

"The emitted CO2 will be intercepted, and together with the biological waste of the ship will be used within the algae-to-oil system. The oil will be extracted on board the ship and can be used, after refining, directly in the diesel engines."

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