Is Green Jet Fuels Ready for Takeoff?


Flying is dirty, at least part of global warming. A round-trip flight from New York to LA can generate up to 2.4 metric tons of carbon dioxide, depending on the airline. That’s about the same emissions as you get from driving a passenger car 6,000 miles or burning 2,653 pounds of coal, according to EPA calculations. Longer trips are even worse. Flying from Denver to Paris will generate 4.9 metric tons of carbon dioxide, while Miami to Shanghai emits nearly 10 tons of CO.2, according to Berlin -based Atmosphere carbon flight calculator.

Carbon emissions from jet travel make up only 2.5 percent of global greenhouse gases, but experts worry that while demand for air travel will grow in developing parts of the world, so will that number. Jet engines that burn conventional aviation fuel also produce sulfur and nitrogen pollutants, water vapor, and contrails. These compounds increase the overall contribution of jet travel to climate warming by an estimated 7 to 8 percent of global emissions, according to a study by U.S. and European researchers published in January 2021. in the journal Atmospheric World.

Last month, the Announced by the Biden administration it will include a $ 4.3 billion research program as well as tax credits for SAF manufacturers in the proposed $ 3.5 trillion reconciliation bill currently being debated in Congress. The White House also said three federal agencies will work with a consortium of U.S. airlines to increase sustainable fuel use to 3 billion gallons by 2030.

Currently, the government has limited airlines to a 50 per cent mix of SAF and conventional fuel, something United officials expect to change after the test flight results. “We have shown that the aircraft is capable of handling sustainable aviation fuel and the performance is technically the same,” Riley said. “This mixing limit may not be necessary. We want to see 100 per cent of our aircraft fly in 100 per cent SAF.

Patrick Gruber, CEO of Gevo, says that after a decade of making the SAF, the technology is ready for a huge boost that could happen if Biden’s tax credits are passed. and the planes will continue their need for its green fuel. “The technology is well developed. The products are proven and certified to work,” Gruber said. “Now, it’s about deploying capital, and making sure everyone makes money.”

Gevo has announced plans for a new $ 800 million facility in Lake Preston, South Dakota, that by the time it opens in 2024 will already be able to produce 45 million gallons of SAF a year, along with 350 million pounds of animal feed. To keep its carbon footprint low, the plant will run renewable energy from a nearby wind farm, Gruber said.

Instead of using plants or waste oil, some traders want to go further by making SAF out of thin air. Well, actually through a neat trick of chemistry that combines a molecule of carbon extracted from CO.2 in the atmosphere with hydrogen molecules separated from water. The result is a sustainable hydrocarbon fuel, according to Nicolas Flanders, cofounder of twelve, a startup operating out of the Stanford University chemical engineering lab.



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