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#Sustainability20: Airbus Works With ZeroAvia To Help Hydrogen Flights Take Off & More
Weekly Roundup - 22/09/23
Each Friday, we publish a round-up of the 20 most important stories on sustainable aviation. You can see previous editions of #Sustainability20 here.
EASA will oversee the aviation industry's carbon neutrality goal by 2050, following the European Parliament's approval of ReFuelEU Aviation regulations. Measures include promoting sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) use and deterring fuel tankering. By 2050, 70% of EU airport fuel should be SAF, with transparency measures for passengers.
The Biden administration might delay a decision on subsidies for corn-based SAF until December. The administration is split on the matter, with environmentalists opposing and Farm Belt stakeholders supporting. The decision will affect billions in potential subsidies.
Glasgow's Loganair has launched the third round of its GreenSkies fund, supporting UK community projects reducing carbon emissions. The upcoming funding round offers £30,000, with applications due by October 31. Loganair adds a small charge to fares for carbon offsetting, funding local and global green initiatives. The airline supports the government's Jet Zero initiative and has invested £2 million in eco-friendly infrastructure.
In August, IATA introduced EcoHub, a platform for airline environmental data management. It streamlines data reporting, ensures data confidentiality, and offers modules like CORSIA Center and CO2 Connect.
Following an intense fire season, reports reveal that smoke from growing wildfires is eroding air quality gains, affecting global health. Between 2010-2019, two billion people annually faced fire-related pollution. In the US, wildfires negated 25% of air pollution improvements. This issue is exacerbated by climate change, making ecosystems drier and more flammable. Poorer countries experience worse pollution.
Infrastructure and operational efficiencies
Decarbonising long-haul flights is a significant challenge, with hydrogen, batteries, and fuel cells still decades away from being feasible, according to Eurocontrol. Although long-haul flights made up 9% of 2019's departures from the UK and EU, they accounted for 54% of Europe's aviation CO2 emissions. Eurocontrol's research casts doubt on achieving net-zero carbon emissions in aviation by 2050, but Airbus remains optimistic about hydrogen solutions.
Amsterdam Schiphol airport is building a 40,000 sqm centralised car rental hub, set to be the Netherlands' largest, housing five major companies and accommodating 2,500 vehicles. Expected completion in 2024, the facility will feature 17,000 sqm of solar panels and infrastructure for charging 300 electric vehicles simultaneously.
The aviation industry is focusing on sustainability, not just through fuel but also aircraft cabins. Weight reduction remains a primary goal, but a shift towards sustainable engineering, repair, reuse, and circular materials is crucial. While cabin refurbishment is prevalent, end-of-life materials often end in landfills. Drawing from other industries' sustainable initiatives, like the automotive sector, can inspire aviation's path. Implementing material traceability, embracing modular designs, and fostering a sustainable mindset are vital steps toward a greener aviation future.
A team from Airbus is shortlisted for the German Future Prize 2023 for their Direct Air Capture technology, which extracts CO2 from the air for industrial use. Adapted from technology used on the International Space Station, this innovation highlights Airbus's commitment to reducing aviation's carbon footprint through various strategies.
Pittsburgh International Airport (PIT) is planning to produce on-site SAF, potentially supplying other airports. Leveraging natural gas resources, PIT seeks to address the aviation industry's green energy needs. This follows PIT's achievement of being powered by natural gas and solar energy. Meanwhile, global airports are increasingly shifting towards green energy solutions. Initiatives like the Airports of Tomorrow project, led by ACI and the World Economic Forum, aim to address infrastructure needs for sustainable aviation.
Hong Kong International Airport (HKIA) aims to become the world's greenest airport, as revealed in its Sustainability Report. Committed to environmental stewardship, HKIA has initiated measures to reduce carbon emissions, champion climate resilience, and promote eco-friendly design. The airport has achieved a Level 4 "Transformation" in the Airport Carbon Accreditation programme and launched the HKIA 2050 Net Zero Carbon Pledge, aligning with global climate goals. Supported by key aviation partners, HKIA also emphasises biodiversity conservation, renewable energy projects, and noise management.
Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF)
Lufthansa Group CEO Carsten Spohr claims the new EU rules on SAF usage aren't achievable with current production standards. Following the European Parliament's approval of the ReFuelEU Aviation Regulation, requiring a phased increase in SAF use by 2050, Spohr expressed concerns over availability and rising passenger costs.
Fly-i, developed by Evident, is a new certification program to regulate SAF consumption. Modelled after renewable energy certificates, it ensures transparency in SAF purchases and usage. World Energy, a SAF commercial producer, is the inaugural participant.
MIT researchers have developed a method to convert lignin, a plant waste product, into SAF using a novel catalyst. The process tackles the challenge of producing the aromatic fraction of aviation fuel from sustainable sources, which has been a significant hurdle in creating 100% sustainable jet fuel. The breakthrough could lead to entirely renewable aircraft fuel, addressing the aviation industry's carbon footprint.
Delta Air Lines has joined the Minnesota coalition to scale SAF for net zero by 2050. Coalition includes Bank of America, Ecolab, Xcel Energy, aiming for 50% SAF by 2035. Collaboration focuses on innovation, research, and environmental stewardship, to be shared at North American SAF Conference.
Austrian refiner OMV and Air France-KLM have signed an agreement for 2,000 mt of SAF supply in 2023, aiming for 300,000 mt by 2030. OMV produces SAF at their Schwechat refinery, using bio-feedstocks with fossil feedstocks. The European Parliament recently set increasing SAF blend targets, boosting SAF supply in the region. OMV also has agreements with Wizz Air, Ryanair, Lufthansa Group, and Austrian Airlines.
A Minnesota farmer, Anne Schwagerl, is growing winter camelina for SAF. Sold to a crush plant in a University of Minnesota project, camelina offers both environmental benefits and profit potential. Harvest is expected in July.
New technology: Electric and Hydrogen
Airbus is investing in ZeroAvia and collaborating on hydrogen-powered flight development. This partnership bolsters ZeroAvia's hydrogen-electric propulsion technology. They'll focus on certification, fuel storage, testing, and refuelling infrastructure. ZeroAvia aims for a hydrogen-electric engine service entry in 2025, with longer-range plans by 2027. Airbus previously invested in Universal Hydrogen, another hydrogen aviation startup.
Swedish manufacturer Heart Aerospace is partnering with aerospace giant Honeywell to integrate its fly-by-wire flight control system into Heart's 30-passenger ES-30 electric aircraft. Honeywell's system is advanced and trusted, benefiting Heart's mission to decarbonise regional air travel. The ES-30, backed by major investors like Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos, will debut around 2028.
Universal Hydrogen achieved a regulatory milestone, obtaining a G-1 document from the FAA, progressing towards certifying hydrogen-fueled turboprop planes. This advancement can set regulatory standards for hydrogen aviation. Universal Hydrogen, co-founded by ex-Airbus technology chief Paul Eremenko, is developing hydrogen-electric conversion kits for turboprops.
Jump Aero, a California startup, unveiled an electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) emergency response aircraft, aiming to halve response times. The JA1 "Pulse" can reach locations within a 31 sm radius in under eight minutes. Pulse will not replace ambulances but complement them. Denmark's Falck Ambulance Services became Jump Aero's first customer. Entry-into-service is expected within five years.
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