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A KLM Boeing 777 on approach into Amsterdam. (Photo: AirlineGeeks | Fabian Behr)

KLM Operates World’s First Flight Using Synthetic Kerosene

KLM has announced that it has operated the world’s first passenger flight using sustainable synthetic kerosene.

The flight operated between Amsterdam Schiphol and Madrid Barajas airports and used 500 liters of synthetic kerosene. The news was announced at the international conference on Synthetic Sustainable Aviation Fuels (SAF) in The Hague.

The synthetic kerosene – based on Carbon Dioxide, water and renewable energy from the sun, wind and Dutch soil – was produced by Shell at its research center in Amsterdam.

Schiphol Airport press release suggests that using this sustainable fuel will lead to a carbon emissions reduction of 85%, compared to using fossil fuels.

“The transition from fossil fuel to sustainable alternatives is one of the largest challenges in aviation,” said Pieter Elbers, chief executive of KLM, in a press release.

“Fleet renewal contributed significantly to the reduction of CO2 emissions, but the upscaling of production and the use of sustainable aviation fuel will make the biggest difference for the current generation of aircraft. That is why we teamed up with various partners some time ago, to stimulate the development of sustainable synthetic kerosene,” Elber said. “This first flight on synthetic kerosene shows that it is possible in practice and that we can move forward.”

The Netherlands hopes that all European airlines can fly entirely on sustainable fuel by 2050, on biofuel or synthetic kerosene. As such, the Dutch government supports several initiatives to stimulate the production and use of sustainable fuels.

A KLM 737.
(Photo: AirlineGeeks | Fabian Behr)

In May 2019, Schiphol Airport announced that it would invest in Europe’s first sustainable kerosene plant in the Netherlands. The plant, due to open next year, will be used to produce 75,000 tonnes of the fuel, which KLM has already committed to developing and purchasing.

The Dutch Minister of Infrastructure and Water Management, Cora van Nieuwenhuizen, said, “Making aviation more sustainable is an international challenge that we face together. Today we are taking a great step in the new chapter of aviation.

“This promising innovation will be of great importance in the coming decades to reduce CO2 emissions from aviation. It is great that in the Netherlands we were the first to show that this is possible: a big compliment for all involved. I hope that, in these turbulent times for aviation, this will inspire people in the sector to continue on this course,” added Nieuwenhuizen.

A future development of sustainable kerosene announced at the SAF conference was an initiative to produce the fuel from carbon dioxide captured in the air.

KLM’s Corporate SAF Program, formerly known as the Corporate BioFuel Program, was launched in 2012. In 2019, only one percent of the airline’s fuel use was sustainable fuel. In January, KLM reported that its sustainable fuels were in short supply and three times as expensive. As such, the airline adds its sustainable fuel into the fossil fuel mix in refueling systems at Schiphol and in Los Angeles, where the fuel is made locally.

The airline also invites its passengers to make use of its CO2ZERO CO2 compensation program. Similarly, since the start of 2021, the Air France KLM Martinair Cargo SAF Program has invited its cargo customers to support the development of sustainable aviation fuels.

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