Exclusive interview with Ignaas Caryn, KLM: The development of a bioeconomy holds great social and economic potential


KLM Boeing powered by biofuel
KLM Boeing powered by biofuel

“I believe that for Europe the development of a bioeconomy holds great social and economic potential. Therefore I hope that Europe will take the right decisions when it comes to defining sustainable feedstock and dealing with ILUC (Indirect land use change impacts of biofuels) issues, not limiting the development of a great sustainable new industry for Europe.” To say it is Ignaas Caryn, director KLM Corporate Venturing and Biofuels. In this interview with the manager of the Dutch Airline Group we speak about bioeconomy and the future of the aviation industry.

“Sustainable aviation – says Caryn – contributing to a bioeconomy is indeed one of the key drivers behind our innovation strategy, and our corporate venturing activities form a key part in executing that strategy”.

Interview by Mario Bonaccorso

Mister Caryn, what’s the role of biological resources for the sustainability of the air transport? And for the future of a reality such as KLM?

Aviation counts for 2-3% of global CO2 emissions, but with an expected doubling of the industry in the coming 20 years, this percentage could increase to 4-5%. This could create a virtual platform limiting the growth potential of the industry. Emission savings can be made by more efficient aircraft, air traffic management and optimizing flight procedures, but significant impact can only come from biofuels.

Furthermore, fuel costs are responsible for 30-40% of an airline’s total operating cost. Airline’s are a price-taker and therefore fuel can impact the results considerably, whilst airlines cannot impact the fossil fuel price.

To KLM it also means a way of differentiating ourselves from the competition. Our number one position in the DJSI for nine consecutive years (and five years the supersector leader) shows KLM is really committed to be the world’s leading airline in sustainability and our customers increasingly appreciate this commitment.

How much do you invest for new projects and businesses in the bioeconomy?

What is important is the development of a biojet fuel market. Currently, the price of biojet fuel is not yet competitive with the fossil fuel. KLM’s efforts are focussed on supporting the (regional) supply chain development and stimulating the market demand. The latter also by involving its customers, as is illustrated by the Corporate Biofuel Program, created by KLM and SkyNRG, for which already 16 corporates have registered.

Have you already flights that uses biofuels?

KLM operated the 1st commercial flight on biofuel in 2011, followed by a series of flights between Amsterdam and Paris in 2011/12, the longest intercontinental flight in June 2012 to RIO, and more recently, a series of 26 flights between New York and Amsterdam during six months. We plan to continue our biojet fuel flights in 2014, also gradually upscaling the blend percentage. We have shown the world flying on sustainable jet fuel is possible, now we also have to make it affordable. Therefore, KLM also recently engaged in the ‘Bioport Holland’ initiative, together with the Dutch ministries of Infrastructure & Environment and Economic Affairs, and Neste Oil, SkyNRG, Schiphol Airport and the Port of Rotterdam, this initiative must lead to a biojet fuel industry for Europe in the Netherlands.

What kind of biomass do you use for your biofuels?

Used Cooking Oil has been the feedstock for most of the flights so far, however, half of the flights in the New York-Amsterdam series were operated on biojet fuel coming from camelina oil. KLM applies a portfolio strategy when it comes to feedstock/technology pathways, as there is no silver bullet and several pathways will be needed to produce sufficient biojet fuel in the future. For all pathways KLM follows the RSB sustainability criteria and also highly values the advice from SkyNRG’s Sustainability Board, in which also WWF-NL participates.

What is your opinion on the recent decision of the European Parliament the share of food based biofuel used in cars and trucks to 6% of total consumption?

From a KLM perspective we will not engage in any food based biofuels, so we think it’s a good move but of course it will also increase competition for the so called 2nd generation biofuels. Therefore, we also believe that any feedstock should be used for the best purpose. Road transport has many alternatives next to biofuels, aviation does not.

Is the bioeconomy a driver in the investment decisions of KLM Corporate Venturing? How do you consider the perspectives of growth of the bioeconomy in Europe?

Sustainable aviation, contributing to a bioeconomy, is indeed one of the key drivers behind our innovation strategy, and our corporate venturing activities form a key part in executing that strategy.

I believe that for Europe the development of a bio-economy holds great social and economic potential. Therefore I hope that Europe will take the right decisions when it comes to defining sustainable feedstock and dealing with ILUC issues, not limiting the development of a great sustainable new industry for Europe. New methodologies such as LIIB (Low Indirect Impact Biofuels, editor’s note) might be very helpful in that sense.

 

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