Environment 93 Stories

Reducing our carbon footprint

Published

13th Dec, 2018

As one of the bigger players in the aviation industry, KLM feels a strong responsibility to reduce its carbon footprint in as many ways as possible. Here are a few things we’ve achieved so far.

Transition to sustainable fuel

The transition from fossil fuels to renewables is a necessary step to reduce the carbon footprint of aviation. The use of sustainable biojet fuel compared to conventional fuel can reduce CO2 emissions by up to 80%. After a demonstration flight in 2009, KLM was the first airline in the world, in 2011, to use sustainable biojet fuel in part for one of its commercial routes. Currently, KLM is the only European airline to partly use sustainable fuel for intercontinental flights.

Over the last three years (upto end 2019), all flights from Los Angeles to Amsterdam have used biojet fuel in part. Another important step towards the development of biojet fuel was the establishment of the KLM Corporate BioFuel Programme in 2012, a collaboration between KLM and various multinationals. The participants in the programme pay a surcharge that covers the price difference between sustainable biojet fuel and traditional kerosene. The programme’s partners are TU Delft, ABN AMRO, Accenture, FrieslandCampina, Gemeente Amsterdam, Loyens & Loeff, Ministry of I&W, PGGM, LNVL, Arcadis, Schiphol Group and Södra.

To increase the production of sustainable fuel, KLM recently announced its purchasing commitment to the first European plant for sustainable aviation fuel. From 2022 onwards, it will produce around 100.000 tons of sustainable fuel.

Less weight means lower fuel consumption

In 2013, Air France-KLM Martinair Cargo was the first to introduce over 22,000 new, lightweight cargo nets. Incorporating a newly developed material, the cargo nets are 50% (9kg) lighter than their predecessors, making them easier to use. They also have two other important benefits: the nets now have a lifespan of five years, instead of three, and the reduction in weight means lower fuel consumption and CO2 emissions. Another important measure was the introduction of lightweight trolleys in 2015. The new full-size and half-size trolleys are 8kg and 5kg lighter, reducing our flight weight by about 400kg.  Of the many ways we have found to reduce weight, one of the most surprising has been to use less paint per plane. This reduces the total weight by 15%.

Fleet renewal

The ongoing renewal of KLM’s fleet is responsible for the greatest reduction in CO2 emissions: new aircraft use fuel more efficiently, thereby emitting less CO2. All Fokker 70s have already been replaced by the Embraer 175+ and E190, and the Boeing 747 is being replaced by the more sustainable Boeing 787 Dreamliner. Measures by KLM to make flights more efficient include making adjustments based on weather conditions. Combined with lighter onboard equipment, this brings a fuel reduction of 35-40% for the new aircraft.

Water power

One of the ways in which KLM tries to reduce its water use is by applying the so-called ‘semi-dry wash’ method. Instead of an average 12,000 litres of water needed to clean a Boeing 777, now only 150 litres are needed, amounting to 80 times less water. In total, eight million litres of water were saved this way in 2017 alone. Keeping the engines of our aircraft clean is also important, for safety reasons and because clean engines use less fuel and thus emit less CO2. In 2012, KLM developed advanced engine-washing equipment, enabling water to be sprayed into the front of the engine several times. With the engine rotating, the water is able to reach the fan and compressor, just like in a washing machine. The result: a clean engine, better performance, and significant reductions in CO2 emissions. The waste water – more than 100 litres – it also caught and fed off responsibly through the KLM Environmental Centre. Another bonus: the Engine Water Wash programme can be carried out at the same time as a regular aircraft check, without any additional ground time.

Going electric

KLM works towards replacing all its ground handling equipment for alternative electric ones. Currently, almost half of all the equipment is electric. KLM is the first airline in the world to start replacing all its existing lower-deck loaders with electric ones. This process will occur in phases. These loaders are the final link in bringing baggage  containers and freight on board, relying on a scissor mechanism to lift pallets up to the
door of the aircraft and then roll the cargo in.

Ambitions

Towards 2030, KLM's ambition is to reduce its total CO2 emissions by 15% compared to 2005. This is another step towards the common goal of the International Air Transport Association (IATA) to reduce CO2 emissions by 50% in 2050 (compared to 2005).

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