In Conversation: Jeremy Bowen, Cirium
In this week’s episode of our ‘Sustainability in the Air’ podcast, SimpliFlying CEO Shashank Nigam spoke to Air Company’s CEO and Co-Founder, Gregory Constantine who shared his company’s remarkable vision for a sustainable future.
You can listen and subscribe to the podcast on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Podcast Addict and Google podcasts.
Here’s a deep dive into the episode:
Air Company takes captured carbon dioxide and combines it with hydrogen. They are source-agnostic so they can take CO2 from anywhere. The hydrogen is created within Air Company’s facilities in Brooklyn, which is powered by renewable sources: a mixture of solar and wind.
When they combine the carbon dioxide and hydrogen together inside their reactors, the reaction that’s caused creates a mixture of alcohols, paraffins, aromatics, and water together. This is then used as the basis of their products, in this case Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF).
Air Company’s business plan is based on this question: “How can we use our early stage of technology when volumes are low and costs are high to shape a pathway towards really large industries, such as aviation, where the outputs needed are massive and the cost needs to be very very low?”
Gregory says the foundational backbone of the company was to “create the technology and make it work, first and foremost.” While that was always the focal point, the company ended up making revenue along the pathway to that scale through their vodka and fragrance lines.
It’s worth noting that the principles of the technology have existed before, and conceptually Air Company’s method builds on what has been done prior. Similar companies and consortiums have developed methods with principles of direct air capture and hydrogen to create SAF, such as the Take-off project EU.
What sets Air Company apart is their proprietary AIRMADE™ technology that imitates the recipe of photosynthesis. It transforms carbon dioxide into impurity-free alcohols that can be used to create a variety of consumer goods. The only three inputs that are required are air (carbon dioxide), water, and sun (renewable energy).
Launching initially with a carbon-negative vodka, Air Vodka, Air Company is now producing carbon-converted Air Spray hand sanitiser and Air Eau de Parfum, among other consumer innovations in the pipeline.
However, Air Company has been able to take things further, and has created a single-step 100% drop-in sustainable aviation fuel made from carbon dioxide.
Prior methods of producing synthetic fuel rely on natural gas, or the Fischer-Tropsch process developed in 1925. This process is a catalytic chemical reaction where carbon monoxide and hydrogen in syngas (a mixture of both), is converted into hydrocarbons. The technology developed by Air Company simplifies this multi-step conversion process into a single-step process, allowing the creation of fuel-grade paraffins.
By completing it in a single-step process, and by creating a fuel that does not need any blending whatsoever, it is in and of itself a cost-effective and efficient solution.
Though the aviation industry is working to rapidly increase the amount of sustainable aviation fuel available, E-Fuels developed by Air Company and a number of other industry players may end up being a better long term bet than biofuels. That’s because there are a number of questions around biofuels, for example when it comes to land use and feedstock supplies.
By comparison, Air Company uses an infinite resource, CO2, and is betting that renewable energy will scale up to allow it to produce SAF at volume and at a competitive price. Obviously, simplifying the way SAF is made, which the company claims to have done, could also prove crucial in that regard.
However, in the aviation industry, momentum also counts for a lot and here Air Company has already received important votes of confidence from NASA, the US Air Force, Virgin Atlantic and JetBlue, just to name a few. As a result, it’s realistic to imagine that Air Company will only grow from here, and that its fuel will power aircraft in decades to come.
In summary, climate change and the aviation industry’s path to net zero by 2050 is dependent on new solutions to decarbonise air travel. The aviation industry is a leading contributor to excess CO2 in our atmosphere, and Air Company shares how they are playing their part in doing something about it.
Air Company is one of a number of really innovative companies making products out of ‘thin air’ or CO2. We profiled a number of others in our carbon removal power list. To read more, click here.
Our Sustainability in the Air podcast is powered by SimpliFlying which has been helping build trust in travel for over a decade.
Season 3 is brought to you by our sustainability partners, Cirium and CarbonClick.
Recently we published our ‘The Rise of Green Travel 2023 – 2028’ report which explores major advancements in aviation over the next 5 years; read it here for free
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Airbus, Qantas Close to Making First Joint Investment in Sustainable Aviation Fuel (Business Traveler)
Carbon Dioxide Emissions Reached A Record High In 2022 (Channel News Asia)
JetBlue Partners With CHOOOSE To Help Scale Sustainable Air Travel (Business Wire)
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