July 5, 2022

An analysis in CAPA looks at the fact that carbon offsetting will be the main sustainability tool for airlines for a while to come.

By 2040, the year when the net zero targets for airlines like JetBlue kick in, 44.5% of industry CO2 reduction will still be reliant on carbon offsets (source – IATA figures).

The reasons for that are of course the current scarcity of Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF), and the fact that the efforts of organisations like NASA aside (see the second story), most electric or hybrid aircraft are still at a prototype stage.

Even when they see the light of day, these aircraft will initially be small 19-seat commuter aircraft made by the likes of Heart Aerospace.

Of course, carbon offsetting is controversial. In his interview with Shashank Nigam as part of the sustainability in the air podcast, United CEO Scott Kirby said:

“When everyone is relying on carbon offsets on planting trees as their way to get to net zero, we’ve accounted for five months of mankind’s emissions and not the next 100 years, and we won’t be close.”

However, at least in the area of SAF there are promising developments.

A Malaysian consortium is planning a 250,000 t/yr hydrotreated vegetable oil (HVO) and sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) plant on a 10-hectare plot at the Sapangar Bay container port in Malaysia’s Sabah state.

This according to Flight Global, is “attracting serious interest across the aviation industry.”

Meanwhile, in Europe, Swedish state-owned power company Vattenfall aims to develop an offshore wind power-based hydrogen supply infrastructure on the west coast of Sweden.

Vattenfall aims for this to come on stream by 2029 and to produce enough SAF equal to the annual aviation fuel demand of Arlanda airport.

However, at least for the medium term, carbon offsetting is almost unavoidable.

In the upcoming issue of AMM Magazine (out next week), we have a special feature from CarbonClick, which talks about how best practice Carbon Offsetting can work with the right partner and projects.

(Top image from IATA)

Arguably, the quest for zero-carbon aviation is as challenging as the original moon landing, and so it’s no surprise that the US space agency NASA is now trying to make sustainable aviation happen.

Through its new Announcement for Partnership Proposals, NASA intends to fund one or more awards to design, build, test, and fly a large-scale demonstrator with an advanced airframe configuration, as well as related technologies.

The agency’s Sustainable Flight Demonstrator (SFD) project aims to reduce carbon emissions from aviation and ensure U.S. competitiveness in a high-demand area of aircraft design – single-aisle commercial airliners.

NASA is targeting technology for single-aisle aircraft because it says it is the workhorse of many airline fleets – which account for nearly half of worldwide aviation emissions.

Overall, NASA’s sustainability hub is impressive and worth looking at.

It includes details of other initiatives NASA is involved in, including its Electric Powertrain Flight Demonstration (EPFD) initiative, which saw $74 million being awarded to electric / hybrid aircraft pioneers MagniX and $179 million to GE.

Under the agreement, the bid winner will test and produce the demonstrator but will have access to NASA resources – and of course funds.

(Top image from NASA)

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