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#Sustainability20: Joby-Backed Firm Completes World’s First Piloted Flights of Liquid Hydrogen-Powered Aircraft & Other Stories In Aviation
Weekly Roundup - 15/09/23
India celebrated the launch of the Global Biofuels Alliance aiming for 20% biofuel blending by 2025. The alliance, including 19 countries and 12 organisations, will facilitate global trade, provide technical support, and set standards for sustainable biofuels, particularly in transportation and aviation.
The European Parliament approved a deal setting binding targets for airlines to increase SAF usage, aiming to boost demand and supply of SAF with lower or net-zero CO2 emissions. Fuel suppliers must ensure 2% SAF at EU airports in 2025, increasing to 70% by 2050, and from 2030, 1.2% must be synthetic fuels, rising to 35% by 2050.
Pegasus Airlines partners with CHOOOSE, a climate tech company, allowing travellers to estimate and offset carbon emissions when booking flights. The platform supports verified climate solutions, including SAF. CEO Güliz Öztürk stated Pegasus Airlines' commitment to net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 and reducing carbon emissions per passenger kilometre by 20% by 2030.
Airlines worldwide face allegations of "greenwashing" by advertising and consumer agencies, regulators, and courts for making misleading claims about their sustainability efforts. Examples include Ryanair, Lufthansa, and Etihad criticised by Britain's Advertising Standards Authority for oversimplifying or providing misleading environmental claims. Additionally, Delta Air Lines faces a class-action lawsuit in Los Angeles for falsely advertising as "carbon neutral" based on carbon offset purchases.
The Biden administration is likely to delay a decision on subsidies for SAF made from corn-based ethanol until December, amid division over the issue. Farm Belt stakeholders see SAF as crucial for ethanol market growth, while environmental groups argue that land clearance for fuel crops worsens global warming. The decision will determine the beneficiaries of billions in subsidies under the Inflation Reduction Act, which requires SAF producers to demonstrate 50% less greenhouse gas emissions than petroleum fuel for tax credits.
Rainforest conservation projects are unsuitable for carbon offsetting, according to a UC Berkeley Carbon Trading Project report. The study found the current system of generating rainforest protection carbon credits, certified by Verra, inflated environmental impacts, failed to provide safeguards for vulnerable communities, and was open to exploitation. The report recommended focusing on curbing deforestation drivers, supporting Indigenous communities in forest conservation, and adopting a contributions approach instead of buying offsets.
Infrastructure and operational efficiencies
Design house PriestmanGoode and aircraft interior textile manufacturer Lantal have partnered to create a sustainable carpet option for aircrafts. The Deep Dyed carpet product reduces carbon dioxide emissions by 40%, water use by 60%, waste by 80%, and carpet weight by 25% compared to typical two-frame carpets. This collaboration is part of a larger effort to move towards a more sustainable future in the aviation industry.
Evia Aero, a German aviation operator, has committed to purchasing 25 electric and 25 hybrid aircraft for its future fleet and plans to partner with Finnish airport developer Redstone Aero to create a sustainable digital airport powered by clean energy. The partners are focusing on a 50 MW solar plant, which will charge the electric aircraft fleet and power airport operations. Although it will take two years to complete the solar plant, Evia is confident it will start commercial operations by 2026.
Birmingham Airport (BHX) in the UK plans to install a 6.8MW solar panel configuration on a noise-blocking embankment, providing at least 20% of its on-site electrical power and moving closer to its goal of becoming net zero-carbon by 2033.
Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF)
The UK Department for Transport is supporting the production of SAF to encourage investment and research. Following Heathrow's SAF incentive program and efforts by British Airways, the government aims to have 5 SAF plants under construction by 2025. Despite interest from British energy companies, most SAF production occurs elsewhere. The UK government launched a £165 million Advanced Fuels Fund and plans a revenue certainty scheme by 2026. However, the UK lags behind other European countries in mandating SAF blending ratios, which may make other countries more attractive for SAF investment.
Making 100% SAF is challenging due to the requirement of aromatics that ensure tight seals in the aircraft's fuel system. MIT's Nancy Stauffer describes research turning lignin, a biomass component, into a product with properties similar to fossil-derived hydrocarbons. If successful, this could result in completely sustainable aviation fuel.
United Airlines agreed to buy up to 1 billion gallons of SAF from Cemvita, which recently opened a SAF plant using CO2 to manufacture fuel. The deal involves 50 million gallons annually for 20 years. Cemvita's technology converts carbon dioxide into feedstocks using engineered microbes, potentially making it carbon-negative and cost-competitive.
Lummus Technology announced its ethanol-to-SAF process technology is commercially available, maximising SAF production and reducing carbon emissions. Lummus Technology's expertise and proven technologies will help customers produce sustainable fuels, supporting the aviation industry's decarbonisation efforts.
Gevo Inc. has entered an agreement with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to receive up to $30 million for its Climate-Smart Farm-to-Flight Program, aimed at boosting SAF production and tracking carbon intensity (CI) impact. The program will incentivise low CI corn growth, accelerate SAF and ethanol production, and use Gevo's Verity Tracking platform to measure, report, and verify CI reductions.
Varo Energy plans to invest $600 million in a SAF production facility in Rotterdam, Netherlands, with a capacity of 245,000 metric tons (80.9 million gallons) per year, starting production in 2026.
Airbus and DG Fuels have formed a strategic partnership to source SAF from a wider range of waste and residue sources using a new fuel-production system developed by DGF. The system will run entirely on cellulosic waste products and renewable energy sources. The first SAF plant, to be constructed in Louisiana, aims to have an annual production capacity of 120 million U.S. gallons by 2026, with plans for more facilities in the U.S. and later, worldwide.
Korean Air has implemented a SAF program for cargo, as part of its commitment to the International Air Transport Association's (IATA) goal of net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. Neste, the leading SAF producer, derives fuel from food waste, and Korean Air's strategy includes customer contributions to purchase more SAF.
New technology: Electric and Hydrogen
Joby Aviation's subsidiary, H2Fly, completed piloted flights of its HY4 aircraft powered by liquid hydrogen, a world's first, doubling its range to 810 nm. This milestone, part of the Project HEAVEN, demonstrates the viability of liquid hydrogen for medium and long-range zero-emission flights. H2Fly will now focus on commercialisation and plans to open a Hydrogen Aviation Center at Stuttgart Airport next year.
ZeroAvia has developed the world's first high-efficiency compressor designed for hydrogen fuel cell-powered aviation propulsion systems. This innovation addresses the challenge of delivering high oxygen flow at high altitudes without adding unnecessary weight, thus affecting payload and range.
New research from Arup and Opportunity Green highlights feasible pathways for decarbonising the aviation and shipping sectors, emphasising the importance of hydrogen and sustainably sourced carbon. The study indicates that all sustainable fuel pathways, except direct electrification, require hydrogen, and that a diverse approach will be necessary due to feedstock constraints.
KLM Royal Dutch Airlines collaborated with Electric Flying Connection (EFC) and E-Flight Academy to provide electric flying lessons to 18 guests, gaining insights into electric flight logistics and challenges. The event, held between Lelystad Airport and Schiphol-Oost, involved flights on a Pipistrel Velis Electro aircraft.
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