Europe has launched an initiative to speed up commercialization of aviation biofuels as another of the region’s airlines unveils plans to use the new fuels in revenue service.

The moves comes as International Energy Agency member countries, including the U.S., agree to release 60 million barrels of oil over 30 days from emergency stocks to overcome disruption of supplies from Libya and stabilize prices.

Welcoming the decision, the U.S Air Transport Association says it is “time to renew our push for greater energy security on all fronts,” including expanding conventional energy sources “and accelerating investment in alternatives.”

Starting in September, KLM will conduct more than 200 flights between Amsterdam and Paris using a 50:50 blend of conventional jet fuel and biofuel derived from used cooking oil. A KLM demonstration flight in November 2009 used biofuel derived from camelina. Lufthansa has previously announced plans for flights between Hamburg and Frankurt using a biofuel blend supplied by Finland’s Neste Oil and derived from jatropha. The flights are awaiting approval to use biofuels in aircraft, now expected early in August.

KLM’s hydrotreated renewable jet (HRJ) fuel will be produced in the U.S by Dynamics Fuels and supplied by SkyNRG, a consortium involving the Dutch airline that was launched in 2009 to develop a sustainable supply chain for aviation biofuels.

Commercial Biofuel Flights

Other undisclosed aircraft are expected to begin commercial biofuel flights this year, says Dirk Kronemeijer, managing director of Amsterdam-based SkyNRG. The company “is ready to supply its launching airline customers with sustainable jet fuel,” he says. KLM’s 200-flight campaign is intended to boost European efforts to raise the major investment required to establish a commercial-scale supply chain for biofuels.

HRJ biofuel from used cooking oil, as well as from biomass sources such as camelina and jatropha, are calculated to offer life-cycle greenhouse gas reductions of up to 80% compared with petroleum-based jet fuel.

Dynamic Fuels, a joint venture between Tyson Foods and alternative-fuels producer Syntroleum, has already produced 400,000 gal. of HRJ fuel for testing by the U.S. Air Force.

The fuel is produced at its new refinery in Geismar, La. With approval of the specification for HRJ, or hydroprocessed esters and fatty acids (HEFA), fuels, industry efforts are shifting to standing up a supply chain for the new fuels, from feedstock production through refining to storage and distribution.

2 Million Metric Tons By 2020

The “Biofuel Flightpath” initiative unveiled by the European Commission (EC), Airbus and leading European airlines and biofuel producers, targets the annual production of 2 million metric tons of sustainably produced aviation biofuel by 2020.

Worldwide aviation fuel consumption was 200 million tons in 2010, of which Europe used 53 million tons. The three major airline groups, Air France/KLM, British Airways and Lufthansa, used 20 million tons of fuel in 2020. Reaching a 2 million-ton goal by 2020 will require the constriction or modification of more than a dozen plants in Europe able to produce aviation fuel by different pathways, including HRJ from seed oils and animal fats, Fisher-Tropsch from municipal waste, pyrolysis from agricultural and forestry residues, and algae.

The Flightpath details potential government and EC funding mechanisms that could be used to accelerate the establishment of an aviation biofuels supply chain in Europe. These include project bonds, loan guarantees and a program that funds research into low-carbon fuels using revenues from the region’s emissions trading scheme.