KLM Operates First Regular Flight with Sustainable Synthetic Fuel


KLM Royal Dutch Airlines operated the first passenger flight partly flown with sustainable synthetic Kerosene. The flight was from Amsterdam Airport Schiphol to Madrid and took place earlier last month.

In the latest push by Dutch Industry to develop alternate fuels for aviation, The Boeing Co. 737-800 narrow-body plane had a total of 500 litres of sustainable synthetic Kerosene, which equated to more than 5% of the total requirement for the Trip.  The company; Shell, produced the synthetic Kerosene in Amsterdam based on Co2, water, and renewable solar and wind energy. The Co2 was captured from Europe’s biggest oil refinery in Pernis, near Rotterdam, and a cattle farm in the northern Netherlands. 

This is groundbreaking in the latest aviation industry news. While flights partly powered by plant-derived biofuels have become commonplace as aviation seeks to reduce its reliance on fossil fuels (rightfully so), fully synthetic propellants have taken longer to develop. The flight took place; January 22nd 2021 was groundbreaking in combining carbon capture with solar and wind power to produce a fully sustainable kerosene substitute. 

“The introduction of sustainable aviation fuel is very important to us,” KLM Chief Executive Officer Pieter Elbers said in a webinar on SAF, where news of the flight was disclosed. “The captain informed the passengers that this was a big step for the industry. They didn’t notice any difference.”

This is not the first time KLM has pioneered in research to create a more sustainable fuel. In 2011, they also operated the first commercial service to use biofuel; powered by a 50:50 blend of Kerosene and used cooking oil. However, according to Elber’s, availability since then, has “been really a challenge,” so it currently meets only 1% of the companies’ needs. 

Photo by Anugrah Lohiya on Pexels

Synthetic jet fuel derived from carbon dioxide and water could help fill the gap, however, to add a caveat; electrolysis used to secure hydrogen in the process eats up large amounts of power, making its industrialisation a significant challenge.

However, Rome was not built in a day; as Shell’s president for the Netherlands, Marjan Van Loon says the aim now is to turn synthetic fuel from “something that is technically possible to something that is economically viable,” reducing costs and accelerating production. 

The stimulation and the goal to develop and normalise the application of sustainable aviation fuels (biofuels and synthetic Kerosene) comes together succinctly under The Zenid Initiative. Uniper, Rotterdam, The Hague Airport, Climeworks, Sky NRG are participating. The initiative uses a combination of technologies to focus on Co2 – neutral aviation with sustainable synthetic Kerosene. 

Many European politicians such as General transport minister Scheuer; this French associate Djebbari and Commissioner Timmermans, emphasised the importance of developing sustainably produced aviation fuels to reduce CO2 emissions and give aviation a bright future. KLM was the first step towards this. 

It is also evident that in the current situation; recovery from the present crisis due to the pandemic must go hand in hand with accelerating the sustainability to the aviation sector to achieve climate goals and to create a brighter and more sustainable future. 


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here