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July 5, 2017. International Airport Review. John Pitts, MD and Founder of UK-based global aviation fuel specialist eJet International, looks at the industry’s current stance on renewable fuels and discusses its potential uptake as a sustainable solution for cutting emissions.
Look at industry news pages today and it’s impossible not to notice that a lot of the topics touch upon the sustainability of aviation fuel and the use of renewable fuels as a viable fuel option within the market. This wasn’t the case, though, 30 years ago when I first started out.
The topic of sustainability was not as wide spread as it is now, and while renewable fuels were in existence, no one was producing them with commercialisation in mind. There was no legislation or targets to be met – the severity of climate change and CO2 emissions had only just started to peak on a global scale and renewable energy sources such as wind and solar, despite being used already, weren’t being produced on a mass scale. The aviation industry was going to have to start looking at its emissions, but there was no solution for it yet.
Fast-forward to the current day and it couldn’t be more different. Not only is renewable fuel being used in a number of industries, there are schemes and initiatives that aim to encourage the development of technology, and stimulate demand.
Cutting emissions on a global scale
Last year the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) signed up to a global scheme that will require aircraft operators to manage their carbon footprint by offsetting CO2 emissions. The Carbon Offsetting Scheme for International Aviation (CORSIA) monitors the emission levels on international flights; it will be mandatory from 2027, but over 60 states have already adopted the scheme on a voluntary basis, starting in 2021 through to 2026.
This commitment to putting sustainability at the forefront was reinforced at the recent International Air Transport Association (IATA) 73rd Annual General Meeting (AGM), where a resolution was approved calling for governments to support and accelerate the production and deployment of sustainable aviation fuels.
This gives us a very positive outlook to the future of renewable fuels, but attitudes on the topic can differ from country to country. The industry is a global one, so what happens in one part of the world inevitably has an impact or consequence in others.
We will need a change in stance from the industry, governing bodies and the public to create the demand, however the difference this time will be that the fuel needs to become compatible – not the engines. The extremely high costs and lengthy lead-times of introducing a new type of aircraft engine means that, for the time being, it will be the fuel that needs to fit in with current demand. In order to succeed, any renewable fuel for use by aviation will have to ‘drop-in’ with conventional fuels, i.e. match the specification so that it can be used alongside the conventional fuel.
John Pitts, MD and Founder of UK-based global aviation fuel specialist eJet International