The same oil
that fried up your lunch might be powering your next flight to Europe.
airline KLM has begun powering some commercial flights on an eco-friendly fuel
mix that includes 25% recycled cooking oil and 75% jet fuel. The cooking oil-fuelled
Boeing 777 flights will be tested on 25 roundtrip transatlantic flights between
New York’s JFK and Amsterdam’s Schiphol every Thursday for the next six months.
waste oil comes from restaurants in the southern US state of Louisiana, where
it’s used to fry up cracklins, catfish and other Cajun treats before being
refined at a plant near Baton Rouge and trucked to New York to fuel the flights.
Though some say
the fuel smells like fast food, the cooking oil is safe for powering jumbo jets
and provides exactly the same flying experience. Even better, it reduces carbon
emissions by up to 80%.
It’s indistinguishable on a molecular level
from regular kerosene jet fuel, Captain Rick Shouten, who piloted the maiden
flight last week, told the
New York Post. “For pilots, it’s totally transparent. It’s as if
you’re flying a normal aircraft.”
been offering biofuel-powered flights for
years, with its first demonstration flight fuelled by a mix of 50% biofuel
made from camelina (an oily member of the mustard family) in November 2009. And
while the Dutch airline started regularly using recycled cooking oil on some commercial
flights between Amsterdam and Paris in June 2011, this
latest usage represents the first time biofuels will be used on a regular
weekly schedule on transatlantic flights.
future of cooking oil-fuelled flights?
In the near
term, it’s more likely cooking oil will by frying up your French fries and
falafels rather than fuelling your flight. That’s because biofuels made from
recycled cooking oil are expensive – about $10 per gallon, or roughly three
times the price of regular jet fuel – largely due to the costs of refining and
preparing the oil for use on jumbo jets.
cooking oil today is used to power diesel trucks or mixed with home heating
fuel, a simpler conversion process. One innovative company, Grease Lightning,
based in New York City, has been purchasing used cooking oil from local restaurants
to convert into biodiesel fuel since 2011. And several Boston hotels, including
the Saunders Hotel, Lenox Hotel, and Ramada
Inn Boston, are using recycled vegetable oil to fuel their laundry trucks
and hotel shuttle buses.
sustainability of these alternative biofuels makes it an environmentally friendly
option for progressive airlines, widespread adoption of recycled cooking oil
requires that usage spreads, making the fuel more affordable for
travel community is hoping for financial support from the governments where major
airlines are based in the form of subsidies, research grants and tax benefits.
“A lot still
has to happen before biofuel will be available on a large scale and for it to
be economically competitive in relation to fossil-fuel kerosene,” KLM said
in a statement. “We cannot achieve this alone. We absolutely need the
commitment and support of all the relevant parties: business, government and