Published on: Oct 14, 2012
The biojet fuels currently commercially available are not the panacea for sustainable aviation at least for this decade, according to Priti Nigam, senior consultant at DNV Kema
The total global carbon emissions contribution due to aviation accounts for approximately 2-3% of all anthropogenic carbon emissions, and this is projected to rise in the future as a result of increasing air traffic.
The aviation industry is under increasing stakeholder pressure to reduce its carbon emissions, despite increasing demand for air travel. Carbon emissions reduction is one of the aviation sector’s biggest challenges today along with safety and security. Industry profits are at an all-time low due to high fuel costs, and the industry is under pressure to comply with the EU Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS), which requires aircraft operators to monitor and report verified data on carbon emissions arising from aviation activities on flights within the EU and all flights entering and departing from EU airports.
The Air Transport Action Group (ATAG) estimates that over a quarter of the operating costs for airlines is spent on fuel, and this proportion is likely to rise further as fossil fuel prices continue to increase in the future. Old aircraft are notoriously fuel inefficient, but commissioning new aircraft which are more fuel efficient is costly, and given the life of a typical aircraft is around 10-15 years, fuel and emissions reductions from advances in new aircraft and engine technology can take a long time to materialise.
Aircraft cannot currently use alternative renewable energy sources available to other sectors such as wind, nuclear, solar or hydroelectric power, therefore airlines seem to have only a few short-term options to reduce their carbon emissions: offset emissions under the EU ETS, usea proportion of biofuels to replace fossil fuels, or rely on air traffic control and management measures to reduce their emissions.
At present, the aviation industry seems to believe that the use of biofuels is the panacea for sustainable aviation through carbon emissions reduction, and ambitious targets to reduce emissions are based on the planned increase in the use of biojet fuels in aviation in the next few years. But biofuels experts argue that this will not work, at least in the current context, for a number of reasons.
This excerpt is reproduced by kind permission of The Fuelhandler, the official magazine for the National Petroleum Management Association