#Sustainability20: 12-Hour Hybrid-Electric Flight Sets New Endurance Record & More
Weekly Roundup - 15/12/23
Each Friday, we publish a round-up of the 20 most important stories on sustainable aviation. You can see previous editions of #Sustainability20 here.
Aviation industry figures at COP28 pushed back against criticism of the sector's carbon emissions, reiterating their commitment to decarbonisation but stressing the need for more support from governments and the private sector.
The Biden administration is set to accept a methodology favoured by the ethanol industry, enabling ethanol-based sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) to qualify for tax credits under the Inflation Reduction Act. This decision is significant for the ethanol industry and the U.S. Corn Belt.
Royal Air Maroc conducted Africa's first carbon-neutral flight between two countries using a Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner with 302 passengers, utilising 40% SAF and avoiding 23 tonnes of CO2 emissions.
ACI World has introduced Level 5 of its Airport Carbon Accreditation program and updated the Airport Carbon and Emissions Reporting Tool to manage airport emissions. Over 555 airports are actively reducing emissions, with Level 5 certifying net zero carbon balance for Scope 1 and 2 emissions and expanded requirements for Scope 3.
Wizz Air has invested £5 million in Firefly, a biofuel company, marking its first foray into SAF development. Firefly's process converts sewage sludge into SAF, tapping into the UK's annual production of 57 million tons of sludge to potentially produce 250,000 tons of SAF.
For the first time in 30 years, diplomats from nearly 200 countries at the UN Climate Change Conference in Dubai approved a global pact calling for a transition away from fossil fuels. The agreement urges countries to shift away from oil, gas, and coal this decade, aiming for zero carbon dioxide emissions by midcentury. It also calls for tripling renewable energy by 2030 and reducing methane emissions. The deal faced challenges from major oil producers and fast-growing economies, leading to a compromise that allows for transitional fuels and emphasises carbon capture in hard-to-abate sectors.
Infrastructure and operational efficiencies
GE Aerospace and its joint ventures reached a new milestone for a more sustainable future of flight with the completion of testing on the 10th engine model using 100% SAF since 2016.
Bristol Airport’s sustainability strategy brings together new and existing goals to cut emissions across its operations, including an interim target to cut carbon emissions across its operations by 73% (compared to 2019) by 2027.
From January 2024, easyJet will supply EU, Swiss, and British-based crew with reusable cups and cutlery, potentially reducing plastic waste by 71 tonnes annually. Additionally, the airline has partnered with Winnow to implement an AI system in Tenerife to minimise food waste.
Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF)
SAF production doubled in 2023 to over 600 million litres and is projected to triple to 1.9 billion litres in 2024, accounting for 0.53% of aviation's fuel needs, as per IATA.
Keppel Corp. and GenZero have signed a memorandum of understanding at the UN Climate Change Conference to speed up sustainable fuel projects in Asia-Pacific. These projects will explore bioenergy fuels like biomethane, biomethanol, and SAF, focusing on retiring coal-fired power plants and shifting Southeast Asia towards cleaner energy like solar and geothermal.
The UK's first direct air capture (DAC) facility, designed to trap atmospheric CO2, is now operational, developed by Mission Zero Technologies in partnership with The University of Sheffield. This pilot facility, capturing 50 tonnes of CO2 annually, uses solar power to minimise additional emissions.
TotalEnergies SE, in collaboration with Masdar, UAE General Civil Aviation Authority, Airbus, Falcon Aviation Services, and Axens, tested a blend of aviation fuel made from olefins. This flight aims to support the certification of a new SAF production pathway from methanol, not yet listed among specified alcohols for jet fuel.
China's State Power Investment Corp plans to invest 42 billion yuan in northeast China to produce fuel using hydrogen generated from wind power. The project includes a 3.5 GW wind power plant, a hydrogen-making facility, and production of SAF and methanol.
Thai Airways conducted its first flight using Neste MY Sustainable Aviation Fuel™ on December 13, with a Boeing 777 refuelled with SAF blend at Phuket Airport for a Bangkok return flight. The SAF was supplied by Thai oil and gas company PTT in collaboration with Petco Trading Labuan Company, Petronas' marketing arm.
New technology: Electric and Hydrogen
Ampaire, creator of the nine-seat Eco Caravan, announced a new endurance record for hybrid-electric aircraft with its Electric EEL demonstrator flying a 12-hour, 1,375 sm journey from Camarillo Airport, California, landing with over two hours of battery and fuel reserves.
Deutsche Aircraft's study, conducted by LBST, compares the economic and environmental performance of Liquefied Hydrogen (LH2) and Power-to-Liquids (PtL) for aviation fuels. The study finds that LH2 could be more cost-effective than PtL at higher airline demands and large scales, but requires significant infrastructure and new aircraft technologies. PtL, meanwhile, needs only minimal updates to existing systems.
LanzaTech Global and Tadweer are conducting a Waste-to-SAF feasibility study, aiming to convert up to 350,000 tonnes of municipal and commercial solid waste annually into 200,000 tonnes of ethanol. This partnership underscores the waste management industry's potential to reduce nearly 1.8 gigatonnes of CO2 emissions yearly.
Sirius Aviation, collaborating with BMW's Designworks and the Sauber Group, is introducing the Sirius Jet. This fully electric, zero-emissions VTOL aircraft combines jet aerodynamics with the versatility of airplanes and helicopters. Featuring a hydrogen-electric propulsion system, it offers a range of 1150 miles and accommodates up to five passengers.
European start-up Maeve Aerospace is shifting its focus to develop an 80-seat hybrid-electric regional airliner, abandoning its previous plan for a smaller 44-seat all-electric aircraft. The new M80 model, expected to launch in 2031, will have a range of 800 nm and a cruise speed of up to 400 knots at 35,000 feet, tripling the range of the original Maeve 01 model.
Dimensional Energy, a CO2 utilisation company, raised $20 million in Series A funding to boost SAF production and other decarbonisation initiatives. Based in Ithaca, New York since 2014, the company converts captured CO2 into fuels and materials, replacing fossil fuel inputs. Using a process that breaks CO2 into carbon monoxide and hydrogen to create syngas, Dimensional Energy offers alternatives to oil and gas for fuel and product manufacturing.
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