Green aviation is on the horizon
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Green aviation is on the horizon

07 April 2021 By Sam Johnson - Further Competition Co-ordinator at YPO

Green aviation

One of the aviation industry global goals is to half its net CO2 emissions by 2050, compared to levels shown in 2005.

As the worldwide aviation industry consumes around 278 billion litres of jet fuel annually, the recently approved ‘Sustainable aviation fuel’, more commonly known as ‘SAF’ will now contribute to revolutionising the aviation industry to help achieve global targets towards NetZero 2050.

What exactly is sustainable aviation fuel (SAF)?

Sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) is a cleaner alternative to power aircrafts, rather than using conventional energy in the form of fossil fuels. SAF is a bioproduct that is produced from several natural supplies, such as edible oil crops/sugars, wastes and residues lipids, agricultural residues, wood residues, algae, and municipal solid wastes. 

wood chippings Algae Rapeseed field

It is a safe, proven fuel, which has the potential to reduce lifecycle emissions of up to 80%, compared with fossil fuels. SAF is also known as a ‘drop in fuel’ which ultimately allows for this biofuel to be blended at a ratio of up to 50% with more conventional jet fuels, such as Kerosene (fossil based) with renewable hydrocarbon.

This type of fuel is certified as ‘JET-A1’ fuel and due to the ratio blend, this does not require any technical modifications to be made within existing infrastructures or aircrafts.

What is the lifecycle of sustainable aviation fuel (SAF)?

The diagram displayed below shows the lifecycle of Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF), and how this contributes to protecting our environment. The lifecycle of ‘SAF’ results in the reduction of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions across its manufacturing lifespan.

Emissions need to be accounted for during the transportation of raw goods, equipment needed to grow the crops and the refinement of fuels, however, as previously mentioned, the lifecycle of ‘SAF’ still contributes to the reduction of emissions of around 80%.

Ultimately demonstrating that the production of this renewable energy source coincides with the next generation of feedstock grown, reabsorbing the carbon dioxide used for manufacturing processes.

SAF cycle

Why use sustainable aviation fuel (SAF)?

At the current traffic rate, there were an estimated 35 million scheduled commercial flights, carrying over 3.8 billion passengers per annum over recent years. The aviation industry produces roughly 2% of global manmade carbon emissions – this is the equivalent of 781 million tonnes of carbon dioxide. Aviation’s annual passenger numbers are expected to grow up to 7 billion by 2035, meaning that effective action on reducing carbon emissions is essential to ensure the sustainable development of the industry.

As previously mentioned, it has the potential to reduce lifecycle emissions of up to 80%, compared with fossil fuels. Ultimately, working towards tackling climate change and individual goals of becoming carbon neutral by 2050.

What are the economic and social benefits of using sustainable aviation fuel (SAF)?

There are many benefits to using SAF, especially in more diverse geographical locations that have land that is inviable for food crops but is suitable for ‘SAF’ feedstock growth. The key requirement of producing SAF is that the feedstock used cannot come from sources that compete with food crops, high carbon stock land, or create environmental degradation.

This will economically benefit many parts of the world, helping to establish local supply chains, helping local economies, and ultimately creating more jobs. However, the main obstacle that the industry is facing, is that there is simply not enough being produced today. This in turn creates a very volatile market, continuously impacting price fluctuations.

As much of the demand is supplied through offshore links, to help minimise these offshore costs, numerous manufacturing locations around the UK will site more refined bases that will ultimately eliminate these higher distribution costs from overseas and allow for the UK to be more independent in sourcing this renewable product.

Modern aircrafts are over 80% more fuel-efficient than those flown at the start of the jet age in the 1950s – by continuing to show great innovation within the industry, green aviation is on the horizon.

 

If you have any questions or would like to know more about our Aviation Fuel framework and how can YPO can help, please get in touch with the team!

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