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Energy

355: Sustainable aviation fuel

Problem:

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, global fuel consumption by commercial airlines had increased each year since 2009 and is predicted to reach an all-time high of 97 billion gallons in 2019. During recent years, total fuel consumption of US airlines per year has been between 16 and 17 billion gallons (60 to 65 billion litres)).

Airplanes could generate 43 gigatonnes of AGW pollution through 2050, consuming almost 5 % of the world’s remaining carbon budget. While electric airplanes are being developed, others have been concentrating on Direct Air Capture, while some consider that the solution lies in less polluting fuel.

Solution:

In 2016, Oskar Meijerink, a sustainable energy scientist, and the Future Fuels team at SkyNRG in Amsterdam began to provide Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) initially made from residual lipids such as used cooking oil, thereafter progressing to sourcing either drought-resistant crops such as Camelina, grown on marginal land in EU Mediterranean areas.

They have now progressed to converting captured CO₂. For the latter, in a separate process, electrolysis splits water into hydrogen and oxygen. The hydrogen is mixed with the captured CO₂ to form syngas, which can be transformed into jet fuel called BIO4A. SkyNRG has supplied over 25 airlines on all continents worldwide, cutting CO₂ emissions by 63% to significantly reduce the aviation industry’s carbon footprint.

In October 2019, SkyNRG launched its Board Now program with companies including PwC and Skyscanner signed up to the purchase of SAF for a period of five years, during which they will reduce their carbon emissions from business air travel and contribute to the development of a new fuel production facility.

The renewable fuel will be produced by Europe’s first dedicated SAF production plant in Delfzijl, the Netherlands, which has an annual capacity of 100,000 tons of sustainable aviation fuel and gets its energy from solar panels. The partners in the project hope to produce the first fuel in 2021.

Discover Solution 356: Sustainable energy storage device

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