GREENAIR NEWSLETTER 17 MARCH 2017
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Etihad comfortably surpasses industry target with a 2.5 per cent fuel efficiency improvement in 2016
Tue 14 Mar 2017 – Etihad Airways claims to have improved fuel efficiency across all operations by 2.5% in 2016, which represented savings of nearly 190,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions, the equivalent of 1,200 flights between Abu Dhabi and London. The UAE’s national airline says it is working on several key initiatives to optimise efficiency, both with the aircraft fleet itself and through external collaboration with aircraft manufacturers Boeing and Airbus. These include efforts to reduce the weight of onboard items and investing in new technology to ensure flight crews have the latest information on weather patterns to allow them to plan for optimum fuel efficiency of their aircraft during flight. Airport staff are also supporting efforts to ensure emissions reductions from using ground power instead of auxiliary power units when aircraft are at gates.
“Fuel optimisation is a top agenda item for any successful and sustainable airline, with Etihad Airways no exception,” said the carrier’s Chief Operating Officer, Richard Hill. “There have been some encouraging results during 2016 and I’m delighted to see so many of our pilots fully engaged with the programme, as this has ensured additional learning opportunities and the identification of new measures that can deliver greater fuel savings in the years ahead. It’s a vital part of our sustainability efforts and we will continue to look for ways to improve our performance.”
With A380 aircraft having a maximum take-off weight of 575 tonnes – equivalent to 115 African elephants or 218 Toyota Land Cruisers, pointed out Etihad – reducing weight is a vital part of fuel savings. A ‘weight out’ programme to remove or replace onboard items has led to a fuel burn reduction of 1,100 tonnes of fuel per year, it estimates.
Last month, Etihad signed a contract that will see the Boeing Wind Updates service introduced into its global fleet operations, which is expected to increase efficiency and reduce fuel consumption by leveraging real-time information to improve in-flight aircraft performance based on atmospheric conditions. The service will provide customised, real-time wind and temperature information during every flight anywhere in the world.
“Being aware of real-time wind data and their related conditions will enhance situational awareness on the flight deck, enabling us to fly the most efficient routes possible,” explained Hill.
More current and accurate weather data is expected to reduce fuel consumption by an average of 90-180 kgs of fuel per flight.
Inbound flights to Etihad’s Abu Dhabi hub can be affected by seasonal fog that requires additional holding fuel to be carried, so negatively impacting fuel performance. The airline is now collaborating with the Masdar Institute of Science and Technology to enable more accurate fog predictions. Internally, continuous reviews of holding fuel policy have also led to more precise calculations of additional fuel requirements.
The dedicated fuel efficiency team is also working with different business areas of the airline to identify new initiatives where additional savings can be delivered.
Etihad said its 2.5% fuel efficiency improvement in 2016 over the previous year exceeded the industry target of 1.5% and that it is contributing to the carbon-neutral growth goal and the long-term aim for emissions to be 50% of 2005 levels by 2050.
Etihad Airways – Corporate Responsibility
CANSO encourages air navigation service providers to adopt carbon footprinting and issues a best practice guide
Mon 13 Mar 2017 – With vast communications and navigation infrastructure, and a need to operate safely and resiliently on a 24/7 basis, air navigation service providers (ANSPs) are energy intensive businesses. They therefore have a role to play both in terms of the influence they can have in reducing aircraft emissions through more efficient operations but also directly in terms of the impact of operating their facilities. To help ANSPs address their environmental performance, the Civil Air Navigation Services Organisation (CANSO) has published a best practice guide to carbon footprinting. Focusing mainly on the management of ‘estate’ related carbon impacts, such as emissions from powering buildings and the infrastructure associated with delivering operations and services, the guide aims to provide ANSPs with a framework to establish tailored programmes to measure, monitor and reduce their emissions.
The guide was put together by CANSO’s Environment Workgroup and is based on best practice by a number of ANSPs that have already well-established carbon footprinting programmes in place and includes case studies of how some ANSPs have significantly reduced emissions as a result. It aims to clarify the issues from an ANSP’s perspective, offer options for carbon footprinting and encourage ANSPs to consider how they might benefit from the exercise.
The guide describes the publicly available generic methodologies and international standards, and how businesses can approach assurance and verification. It describes what might be appropriate for an ANSP organisation, whether it is considering carbon footprinting for the first time or has already begun the assessment.
There are many reasons why ANSPs should monitor their greenhouse gas emissions, say the authors of the guide. By conducting a carbon footprint measurement, the most energy intensive areas of the business can be identified, which can then result in opportunities to implement newer, more efficient low carbon technologies. Improving the energy efficiency of buildings can reduce costs as well as decrease GHG emissions. As an example, UK ANSP NATS has reduced its energy consumption by over 30% in absolute terms since it started measuring and targeting energy efficiency since 2008. In the process, it is saving over £4 million ($5m) a year and tens of millions since the programme began.
Compliance with legislation, regulation and national targets on GHG emission reductions is often another requirement, and ANSPs are encouraged to define their own objectives if they are not already imposed. Measuring and monitoring can also be a useful front-line control in determining if there is an environmental risk from hidden issues or system failures.
Airports and air traffic are often perceived negatively because of their environmental impacts and undertaking a carbon footprint assessment alongside a corporate social responsibility (CSR) report is a way of self-regulating that allows a company to set and manage its sustainability goals and monitor how it performs, says the guide. Not only does this support emissions reductions but reporting data and performance also demonstrates transparency and credibility to the public, investors and stakeholders.
ANSPs aspiring to grow their businesses and tendering for new contracts are also increasingly being asked to demonstrate their environmental credentials. Often a prerequisite when bidding for new commercial work is having an environmental management system and policy in place, and understanding the carbon footprint of their operations.
With many airports committed to reducing their emissions through the industry’s Airport Carbon Accreditation programme, collaborative support from ANSPs is becoming important for delivering their operational and environmental goals.
“The air traffic management industry is already playing a vital role in reducing aircraft emissions through more efficient operations,” commented CANSO Director General Jeff Poole. “ANSPs can also reduce emissions more directly by managing the environmental impact of operating the facilities they own and manage. This guide give ANSPs the tools to do that and I encourage all ANSPs to measure their carbon emissions as a crucial first step in identifying and delivering environmental improvements.”
‘Air Navigation Service Provider Carbon Footprinting: A Best Practice Guide’
Heathrow sets out long-term vision of a zero carbon airport and creating a centre of sustainability excellence
Thu 9 Mar 2017 - Although we’re passionate about the environment, we weren’t previously punching our weight, admitted Heathrow Airport’s Executive Director Expansion Emma Gilthorpe at the unveiling last week of Heathrow 2.0, a self-styled bold and ambitious long-term sustainability strategy for the airport. The UK government has signalled its support for major expansion and a third runway but there are still considerable challenges for the airport, not least over environmental and climate change concerns. Goals set out in the plan include becoming carbon neutral by 2020 and a zero emissions airport by 2050; all flights serving the airport by the time of the new runway opening in the middle of the next decade to be subject to the global CORSIA carbon-neutral growth scheme; and creating a Centre of Excellence for aviation sustainability research and innovation.
Gilthorpe insisted work on the Heathrow 2.0 strategy started well before the government granted its approval for a third runway last October.
“We are one of the world’s biggest international airports and while we were doing a lot of incremental work on the environment, it hadn’t really translated into a solid action plan,” said Gilthorpe, who recently moved from strategy planning to head up Heathrow’s expansion team. “A year ago we decided to move away from what was a three-year planning horizon on sustainability to something more long-term. Up to that point, we had focused heavily on noise and air quality but not on some of the more national and global issues, such as around carbon.”
She related how she and top Heathrow executives had visited leaders of other major UK companies that were leading the way on sustainability to understand how they were dealing with the challenge.
“We got two key messages. One was ‘be bold’. You may not be clear how you’re going to get there but it is important you set out a bold ambition of where you want to get to. The other is to know what is your particular purpose in doing this.
“We came quickly to a conclusion that what sets us apart from other big organisations is that we are very geographically focused, with a single footprint. So a big part of our sustainability plan is to focus on a local agenda – how we can be a better neighbour, how we can be a great place to work and live around.
“Beyond that though, while the local agenda is very important, we also need to acknowledge the impact we had nationally and globally.”
Heathrow’s Sustainability Director, Matt Gorman, rebutted criticism that Heathrow 2.0 is a series of short-term goals to win over expansion opponents. “I challenge you to find any other airport that has set out a long-term plan as deep and as broad as this,” he said. “Some of it is short-term but the plan is full of targets that go well beyond 2030 and on through to 2050.”
He said there was an increasingly sound business case for moving towards a zero-carbon airport through investing in renewables. A start will be made on this major centrepiece of the sustainability plan next month when the airport’s fixed infrastructure is to be powered entirely by purchased offshore wind renewable electricity from offsite sources through the Renewables Obligation scheme. The airport has a 2020 milestone target of a 30% reduction in carbon emissions against a 1990 baseline, with further milestone targets to be developed during 2017.
Minimising energy consumption and maximising on-site renewables required long-term business planning and continued investment, explained Gorman.
“We have a great track record of cutting energy use over many years,” he said. “There will be great opportunities in the future with the new expansion programme and there are some very exciting concepts we are looking at. For example, we want to see how close we can get to a zero-energy terminal.
“We already have London’s largest biomass combined heating and power plant, which supplies 20% of Terminal 2’s needs from sustainable woodchip sourced with 75 miles of the airport. We also have some solar power but making a real dent in renewable generation on-site will take another decade or so.”
To achieve carbon neutral status from 2020 will therefore require offsetting Heathrow’s own emissions that it cannot mitigate itself, and the airport is exploring the possibility of using credits generated by peatland restoration in the UK.
“Peatland is about 12% of the UK’s surface area, so it’s significant, and 80% of that is degraded. We know there is a chunk of that which is readily available to be restored,” said Gorman. “When peat bogs dry out, they release carbon into the atmosphere. It could be a cost-effective way of offsetting carbon.”
He believes there is a possibility for credits from a UK-based scheme to be eligible under the ICAO CORSIA global offsetting scheme in the future, and he said the airport would publish detailed plans sometime this year.
As the only airport to join a number of pioneering airlines that set up the Aviation Global Deal Group in early 2009 to develop a global policy for tackling aviation emissions, Heathrow has had more than a passing interest in the emergence of the ICAO scheme.
No more than an aspiration at this point, as it requires a buy-in by all airlines serving the airport, Heathrow will attempt to have full carbon-neutral growth operations from the time the third runway opens in around 10 years’ time. By then, in 2027, the scheme will have moved from the voluntary to a mandatory phase, so most flights to and from Heathrow should be covered. However, Gorman pointed out that from initial forecasts it has done, some 8% of the traffic growth will come from flights to the least developed countries and small island states permanently exempted from the scheme.
How to ensure the net increase in emissions is offset from flights after the third runway opens is unclear, admitted Gorman. “We don’t have all the answers but we still think it’s the right thing to put the aspiration out there,” he said. “We think CORSIA has a solid foundation that covers most of the emissions but the job now is to work with our airline customers, our regulator [the UK CAA] and government to see how we can make it happen.
“One of the advantages of the runway opening time is that we have nearly a decade to work out the answers to some of these challenging questions.
“As an example, a decade ago many would have laughed at the idea of sustainable aviation fuels – it was a pipe dream and now look where we are. Look also at the very slow progress ICAO was making 10 years ago on a global market-based measure, and now we have an international agreement, partly as a result of the strong advocacy of UK airlines and ourselves.
“We expect to be held to account on this and we intend to publish a detailed roadmap on how we can move towards the aspiration.
“We can do a lot in this sector – for example, using sustainable fuels, cleaner aircraft, more efficient operations and changes to airspace design – but it is a fact that the costs of cutting carbon are generally higher than for other sectors, so there is a point where it is cheaper for aviation to pay for cuts in other sectors. The enemy is not air travel, the enemy is carbon. The challenge is to get rid of carbon from the global economy in the cheapest possible way.
“Understandably, people say we are a growing source of emissions at a time when emissions in the UK economy are generally coming down. We have to confront that and we see it as a long-term ‘permission to operate’ issue for us.”
Gilthorpe sees other opportunities to incentivise airlines to lower carbon emissions from Heathrow flights such as through landing charges related to age and fuel efficiency of aircraft. The airport also plans to develop ‘green slots’ for the new runway and establish infrastructure projects for the supply of sustainable aviation fuels to aircraft.
On the ground, Heathrow currently owns 400 vehicles and expects all small cars and vans to be all-electric by 2020. There around 8,000 ground vehicles operating within the airport fence and the aim is for airside vehicles to comply with ultra-low emission standards by 2025. Heathrow is also targeting zero waste generation by 2050 and for all the water used at the airport to come from sustainable sources by the same year.
The airport is also planning to extend its Fly Quiet noise performance table for airlines, which it launched in late 2013, to include air pollution from aircraft, such as NOx emissions. Gorman said ICAO aircraft standards on local air quality would play a part in the metrics, details of which are now being finalised. Operational practices such as single engine taxiing would be one of the metrics, he said. The programme will be called Fly Quiet and Clean.
The noise performance table had been an effective tool in changing airline behaviour at the airport, reported Gorman.
“Airlines were nervous in the beginning about being ranked but now they regard the table very positively,” he said. “When we first published it, we had a whole host of conversations with airlines who wanted to know why they weren’t higher up the table.
“There was one airline that many would consider very green but was low down the table. It was partly about the type of aircraft they were using on Heathrow routes, so they switched over to newer, quieter aircraft and now they are much higher in the table.
“Another had a low score on continuous descent approaches (CDAs). They wanted to know how to improve and we worked very closely with them, and now they are one of the best performers.”
Another major initiative that Heathrow considers will set itself apart from other airports is a plan to set up a Centre of Excellence for sustainability at airports and in the wider aviation sector. A vision for the Centre is still being formulated and further plans will be revealed later this year but Heathrow has already committed £500,000 ($600,000) in seed funding and plans for it to be launched by 2019.
The airport wants to involve academic institutions – it already has relationships with Imperial College, Brunel University and Manchester Metropolitan University in the UK – and also companies involved in aircraft and engine manufacturing, sustainable aviation and ground transport fuels, and even electric car manufacturers. Heathrow would also like to collaborate with other airports, even those outside the UK, in supporting research on, say, noise impacts. Another aim is to create a funding awards scheme specifically targeting SMEs and entrepreneurs with ideas for clean technologies.
So how many of the numerous initiatives announced in the Heathrow 2.0 plan would happen if the airport had been refused a third runway? “There are some things in there that we couldn’t have done unless we were expanding,” said Gilthorpe.
“There are many organisations like ours around the UK that are going through this process of trying to understand what it means to be a responsible business.
“While expansion can give us momentum in certain areas, ultimately I don’t see how you can be a business like ours without having a clear plan. This is something over which we want to be held to account for many years to come.”
Unanimous adoption by ICAO Council paves way for introduction of new aircraft CO2 emissions standard
Mon 6 Mar 2017 – The ICAO Council unanimously adopted on Friday (Mar 3) the Aeroplane Carbon Dioxide Emissions Certification Standard that was recommended last year by ICAO’s Committee on Aviation Environmental Protection (CAEP). After seven years of development, the new standard is part of the ICAO ‘basket of measures’ to reduce aviation emissions and is intended to encourage more fuel-efficient technologies into aeroplane design, covering propulsion, aerodynamics and structures. It has been criticised in some quarters for its lack of stringency as a result of being too heavily industry-driven, but is claimed to be the first global technology standard covering CO2 emissions for any sector. Current ICAO Annex 16 Standards include aircraft noise (Volume I) and engine emissions in respect of local air quality (Volume II), and the new CO2 standard is expected to become applicable as Volume III during the latter part of this year.
The standard applies to subsonic jet aircraft over 5,700kg and propeller-driven aircraft over 8,618kg. It is said to be most stringent for commercial aircraft with a maximum take-off mass (MTOM) of greater than 60 tonnes (typically single-aisle 737/A320 families and larger), which account for more than 90% of international aviation emissions, and will apply to new type (NT) designs from 2020. It will also apply to in-production (InP) aircraft from 2023 that are modified and meet a specific change criteria. This is subsequently followed up by a production cut-off in 2028, which means that InP aircraft that do not meet the standard can no longer be produced beyond 2028 unless the designs are modified to comply with the standard.
According to an article in the ICAO Environmental Report 2016 by Stephen Arrowsmith of the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and Laszlo Windhoffer of the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), fully understanding the contribution of the standard to reducing CO2 emissions from international aviation is complex due to potential unknown market-driven responses to the regulation.
“However, it is clear that the new standard will have direct effects by increasing the importance of fuel efficiency in the design process such that an aeroplane type not just meets the regulatory limit but also has good relative product positioning in terms of a margin to the limit,” they wrote.
According to an analysis by the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT) after CAEP reached agreement at its meeting in February 2016 (CAEP/10), the standard will on average require a 4% reduction in the cruise fuel consumption of new aircraft starting in 2028 compared to 2015 deliveries, with the actual reductions ranging from 0 to 11%, depending on the MTOM of the aircraft.
Like other safety and environmental requirements, the CO2 standard will be implemented as a new requirement under each National Aviation Authority’s (NAA) aircraft type certification system. The standard will be enforced via a production cut-off for new InP aircraft starting in 2028 when non-compliant models will not be certified for sale in the jurisdiction area of the certification body, for example EASA in Europe and FAA in the USA. In the event that a future aircraft design is less efficient than current new types and therefore fails the standard, it would not be allowed to be type certified and sold internationally, said ICCT.
During the intervening year since CAEP/10, the standard has undergone consultation with ICAO’s 191 Member States and now it has been adopted by ICAO’s 36-State governing Council, it must be implemented by all States under domestic legislation. Those countries with certifying bodies, such as FAA in the US and EASA in Europe, may adopt this standard or impose tighter restrictions on CO2 emissions from aircraft if the standard is deemed to be insufficient, points out ICCT.
Eyes will be on the US Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) proposed Endangerment Finding and Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPR) on aviation greenhouse gas emissions (see article), which signaled the agency’s intent to adopt the ICAO CO2 standard provided it is considered consistent with the goal of requiring additional fuel efficiency improvements from domestic aircraft. However, this has now to be seen in the context of the new US Administration’s plans for the EPA, with rumours of savage cuts in the agency and a reining back of CO2 regulatory powers.
ICAO negotiations on CORSIA scheme challenging, European climate chief tells EU environment ministers
Thu 2 Mar 2017 – The goal of stabilising rather than reducing emissions from international aviation through the use of international carbon credits fell below EU climate ambitions but the agreement reached at the ICAO Assembly last October on the CORSIA scheme starting in 2021 was a welcome and necessary first step on climate action for the sector, Climate Commissioner Miguel Arias Cañete told EU environment ministers at a Council meeting on Wednesday. The EU’s responsibility now, he said, was to make the scheme work and improve it over time, consistent with the goals agreed under the Paris Agreement. Intensive ongoing negotiations at ICAO on the rulebook and governance of the scheme were challenging, he reported. The Commission proposes a continuation of the EU ETS ‘stop the clock’ (STC) legislation until 2020 to allow for the discussions to continue, with further assessment needed to ensure the aviation sector contributed to EU 2030 climate targets. Cañete urged the Council to swiftly reach an agreement with the European Parliament on STC.
He said the effectiveness and credibility of CORSIA (Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation) relied on implementing key rules on transparency and accounting, including double-counting avoidance and the quality of offsets to be used for compliance.
“They are undoubtedly challenging but we will need to work closely together to ensure a sufficient degree of robustness,” he described the ICAO ongoing process. “Equally important, the scheme will not take off if it’s not translated into domestic legislation.”
The EU was well advanced on transposing the required legislation on CORSIA implementation but this was not the case in most countries, he told ministers.
“This will be a test of the political determination of their intention to participate in CORSIA as signalled at the ICAO Assembly,” he said. “In that regard we will need to be vigilant as some key countries such as China have since submitted reservations against the objective of carbon neutrality and raised questions about ICAO’s legitimacy to address the quality of emission units. China still has to formally confirm too its intention to participate from the beginning of the scheme.”
However, he went on, there was a responsibility to both support the ongoing discussions in ICAO and ensure the EU acted on aviation emissions so that the sector contributed to European climate objectives, first by 2020 and later by the EU-wide target of reducing emissions by at least 40% compared to 1990 levels by 2030.
“At a time when other sectors of the European economy are being asked to do more, it’s clear the aviation sector also needs to do its fair share and this where a full comparison between the climate performance of the global scheme and the EU ETS against the EU domestic climate objective is essential.”
The present STC scope of the EU ETS, which is restricted to covering emissions from intra-EEA (European Economic Area) flights, was working well, he said, with compliance – including by airlines from third countries – very high at 99%. The Aviation EU ETS was also contributing carbon emission reductions of 17 million tonnes under the cap, he reported.
He said an agreement had been reached with EU Transport Commissioner Violeta Bulc to propose a continuation of the reduced scope of the Aviation EU ETS until 2020.
“Keeping the EU ETS limited to intra-EEA flights will both help facilitate the remaining work at ICAO and achieve our emission reduction targets,” he said. “Between now and 2021, we will know more about the actual operation of CORSIA and its effectiveness. We should stand ready to adapt our legislation to allow for the implementation of CORSIA by the EU while mindful of the need to do so in a way that will be fully consistent with our 2030 climate objective.”
He said the European Commission proposed to report back to the Council on developments and come up at a later date with new amendments to the Aviation EU ETS to make it consistent with the 2030 target.
“We have to bear in mind that our 2030 target is based on domestic efforts while the ICAO system relies on international credits,” he said. “This is a major difference between CORSIA and the EU ETS, which also has a more ambitious baseline with obvious implications for climate performance.”
In the Commission’s proposal published early last month to continue with STC up until 2020, the accompanying impact assessment put forward a number of options that open up the possibility of two carbon schemes for aviation operating in Europe from 2021:
- Continuing with the intra-EEA scope application of the EU ETS, with extra-EEA flights covered by CORSIA;
- For intra-EEA flights, emissions above the EU ETS cap to be offset with EU allowances, with extra-EEA flights covered by CORSIA;
- CORSIA applied to intra-EEA and extra-EEA flights, and the EU ETS additionally applied to intra-EEA flights to address emissions between the cap and 2020 levels; and
- CORSIA applied to intra- and extra-EEA flights, while maintaining the legal base for EU action.
The ministers at the Environment Council were meeting to discuss and vote on proposals for the EU ETS in the 2021-2030 period as a whole, which include tougher rules that would also apply to aviation. The proposals were carried by a majority vote.
Cañete told the ministers that in the meantime there was “an imperative necessity” for the Council to reach a swift co-decision with the European Parliament with regard to the 2017-2020 period of the Aviation EU ETS, in which the Commission proposes to continue with STC. Under present legislation, STC ended in 2016 and provides for an automatic snap-back to the full scope of the EU ETS that covers both intra- and extra-EEA flights.
“Any delay or failure to reach a timely agreement means that we would automatically revert back to the original full scope with all the implications this would immediately have with our international partners,” he said.
Representing EU member states as the current President of the Environment Council, Malta’s environment minister Jose Herrera said work in the Council was already underway on the Commission’s response to the CORSIA agreement and the next steps on the EU ETS.
“Following the positive results in ICAO, the EU should strive to maintain the momentum and facilitate the work needed in order to operationalise CORSIA so that its first phase can begin in 2021,” he said. “I would like to reassure you the Presidency is committed to advancing work within the Council on this new legislative proposal. We will also be ready to engage constructively with the European Parliament at the appropriate time in order to facilitate swift agreement between the co-legislators.”
EU Council – video recording of Cañete statement (starting at 2:00 minutes)
Strategic decisions on EU aviation biofuel deployment urgently required to overcome cost obstacle
Tue 28 Feb 2017 – Despite efficiency improvements and a global agreement to stabilise carbon emissions from international aviation at 2020 levels, due to rapid growth in the sector there is likely to be a gap of 232 million tonnes of CO2 between 2020 and 2030 within the EU alone. Although carbon offsetting may plug this gap, it is not a long-term solution and renewable jet fuels will be an essential element of structurally reducing these emissions but a number of obstacles need to be overcome in order to stimulate their use, says a new report. A major stumbling block is overcoming the price premium and researchers at Utrecht University and the Energy Research Centre of the Netherlands (ECN) estimate that replacing 5% of all regular aviation fuel by 2030 will cost upwards of €10 billion ($10.6bn). Their report looks at the pre-conditions for the ramp-up of biofuels for aviation in the EU and conclude that rapid strategic decisions are required to realise the required significant long-term emissions reductions.
The research was carried out as part of the Renewable Jet Fuel Supply Chain and Flight Operations (RENJET) project, and funded by EIT Climate-KIC. Partners include Utrecht University, Imperial College London, aviation biofuels supplier SkyNRG, KLM and Amsterdam Airport Schiphol.
Although alternative propulsion systems may be promising options towards the end of this century, drop-in renewable jet fuel derived from biomass is the most technically and economically feasible option in the coming decades to decrease the carbon intensity of aviation fuel, argue the researchers. Depending on the production pathway, RJF can, they say, reduce life-cycle emissions significantly – up to 95% – compared to fossil jet fuels.
Although carbon offsets are a cheaper CO2 abatement option compared to RJF, they have limitations as the global availability of offsets of an acceptable environmental integrity level is limited and may only just be enough to achieve CNG in the 2020-2035 period covered by ICAO’s CORSIA carbon offsetting scheme. After this period, the cost may rise steeply because supply becomes tighter as the world moves towards the net zero CO2 emissions society required under a 2 degrees target.
“Offsetting does not provide a structural solution to the industry’s emissions growth,” says the report. “Hence, the introduction of RJF is likely necessary as an additional measure to achieve deep carbon reductions over the long term.”
As well as quantifying the required emission reductions of the EU aviation sector to achieve carbon-neutral growth up to 2030, the report explores the role of renewable jet fuel (RJF) in reducing aviation CO2 emissions, and the available feedstock and technology options to produce RJF towards 2030. Four possible RJF deployment scenarios are formulated and evaluated in terms of cost and impact on the EU bioenergy portfolio. The deployment scenarios vary in the share of carbon offsets and RJF deployment used to cover the emissions gap.
Under a Business as Usual scenario, RJF deployment relies on investments by airlines or external co-funding, and estimates only 13 kt of RJF will be produced by 2030 due to the absence of an external incentive. This effectively means the aviation sector will have to meet its carbon-neutral growth target until 2030 using carbon offsets. As a result, believe the researchers, it will most likely fail to meet further emission reductions after 2030 since the required RJF technological options have not been developed while the amount of available carbon offsets may rapidly deplete after 2030.
In the Delayed Action and Strategic Action scenarios, the RJF share increases exponentially from 0.5% in 2021 to 5% in 2030 (3.4 Mt/yr). Carbon offsets are used to buy time to gradually integrate RJF in the feedstock technology portfolio. In the Delayed Action scenario, HEFA RJF represents nearly 90% of the total RJF supply in 2030 but as the potential of sustainable oil feedstocks is limited, and while alternative technologies remain undeveloped, such a system could give rise to major scale-up difficulties in the period beyond 2030, says the report.
In contrast with the Delayed Action scenario, the Strategic Action scenario presents a growth trajectory that gradually introduces lignocellulosic-based biofuels produced through a varied technology portfolio while phasing out food-based biofuels. This would provide a more scalable and potentially cheaper alternative to RJF production than waste oils, and feedstock imports can be significantly reduced. Under this scenario, more investment is directed to building production capacity, hence supporting the development of a more EU-focused advanced biofuels industry, including the macro-economic benefits that may accompany such development.
“Governments should see the macro-economic and environmental benefits that may accompany the development of an advanced biofuel industry, such as job creation, energy security, rural development and innovation,” said Sierk de Jong, a lead author of the report and researcher based at the Copernicus Institute of Sustainable Development at Utrecht University.
The Full RJF adoption scenario assumes that RJF covers the entire emissions gap – no carbon offsetting is used – in which volumes grow from 1.3 Mt in 2021 to 14 Mt/yr by 2030 (representing 20% of total jet fuel use), with an accumulative 74 Mt of RJF being produced over the period. This scenario would require an extremely high rate of feedstock mobilisation and capacity deployment, including lignocellulosic biofuel production capacity to increase from virtually zero to 26 Mt/yr over the course of 15 years. As even more substantial RJF volume is required after 2030 to reach the industry’s target of halving net CO2 emissions by 2050, it is essential to have a long-term vision with a prominent role for early action such that significant volume growth can be achieved towards the middle of the century, says the report.
To achieve large-scale RJF deployment, substantial funds are of course required. In all four scenarios, a price premium is assumed to exist and likely to remain beyond 2030 irrespective of feedstock-technology combination, unless fossil jet fuel prices increase strongly or production costs reduce drastically. In the Strategic Action scenario, total expenses of the introduction of RJF in the EU were quantified by the study as being in the region of €10.4 billion. These funds only cover the price differential between RJF and fossil jet fuel, so excluding R&D funds required for technology development.
So what is required to overcome this gap? A structural financing mechanism to bridge the price premium is essential, says the report. Due to the high price premium over fossil jet fuel (average €762/t RJF) and emission mitigation cost (€242/t CO2), a level playing field with other bioenergy sectors will likely be inadequate to stimulate RJF uptake, it cautions. Supplementary measures such as guaranteed feed-in tariffs will therefore be necessary and public investment may be justified on the grounds of potential environmental and macro-economic benefits of RJF deployment.
Alternatively, fund raising may be coupled to the expenses of carbon offsets at a global or regional (CORSIA, EU ETS), national or airport/airline level. A modest surcharge of €0.90-4.10 per passenger – roughly twice the cost of a carbon offset – towards a ‘RJF deployment fund’ could be sufficient to support a 5% biofuel blend in 2030, said de Jong.
There are many other challenges too. RJF deployment requires substantial R&D and demonstration efforts and high feedstock mobilisation rates.
“Developing an industry takes time – we need to develop advanced technologies, mobilise sustainable feedstocks and attract investments,” said de Jong. “We need a stable environment in which this industry can develop. Taking strategic action now is cardinal to reaching long-term climate goals.”
Robust sustainability standards are also key to guarantee sustainable production and global use of RJF, says the report. “Sustainable practice is a prerequisite,” explained de Jong. “The global character of the sector requires a robust sustainability framework which is flexible to capture region-specific contexts yet stable to give investors certainty about the compliance of long-term investments with sustainability standards.”
He added: “CORSIA is a clear milestone, but we need biofuels to structurally reduce aviation emissions and contribute to COP21 targets. We therefore urge the industry and governments to continue their efforts to stimulate the development of biofuels for aviation.”
‘Renewable Jet Fuel in the European Union’ Report
COMMENTARY: Forest carbon offsets under CORSIA can offer a win-win for airlines, society and the planet
Tue 14 Mar 2017 – The global carbon offsetting scheme reached by ICAO in October 2016 is a highly commendable achievement that provides a starting point to drive change in the aviation industry over the coming decades. The deal is not without its detractors from within the environmental community but it does provide an unprecedented opportunity to save threatened forests and significantly narrow the existing emissions gap for achieving a safe climate, writes Jessica Verhagen of Ecosphere+. The rules for offsets under the ICAO Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation (CORSIA) scheme are under development, including the types of offsets that will be accepted. Forest carbon offsets can offer the most effective climate solution the world has today to materially reduce emissions, and is easily understood by consumers.
These offsets can also supply the volume that the aviation industry needs to meet its emission reduction targets at reasonable costs with environmental integrity as well as a multitude of additional benefits, including poverty alleviation, biodiversity conservation and improved water and food security. This provides the airline sector with the ability to deliver a material climate change solution as well as contribute to wider United Nations sustainable development goals that can only strengthen CORSIA.
At COP21 in Paris, 195 governments agreed the ambitious goal of “holding the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels”. This is what is necessary to keep our climate within ‘safe’ limits, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s 5th Assessment report. While the governments of nearly every country on earth have made ambitious pledges to cut emissions, there is still a significant gap in what’s needed.
In order to achieve holding global temperature rise to no more than 2°C, the world must reduce an additional 12-17 GtCO2e by 2030 on top of the country climate commitments made in Paris, according to the UNEP Emissions Gap Report 2016. This ‘emissions gap’ makes clear that significant action from the private sector is needed. By agreeing CORSIA, the aviation industry has taken steps towards curbing emissions from international aviation and playing its part in closing the emissions gap, despite the sector not being mentioned in the Paris Agreement.
The potential of forests
Sustainable land use, which includes agriculture and forestry, could deliver about one third of the required near-term emission reductions that are required. It will be impossible to limit global temperature rise to no more than 2°C without stopping the current dramatic deforestation and degradation of forests as well as transforming unsustainable forestry and agricultural practices. Halting deforestation is the largest and most cost-effective immediate opportunity to reduce global emissions.
Photosynthesis, the natural process of plants taking in CO2 and releasing oxygen to make their own food, is the oldest technology in the world. And it is available today without the need for years of expensive research or engineering experimentation; it just needs the right focus. To realise this potential, one key ingredient is missing: a value on forests left standing, a reason to keep trees in the ground. Whilst this sector has enormous potential in terms of climate change mitigation and sustainable development, it only receives around 5% of public climate finance and does not benefit from strong policies in the way the energy sector does. This makes the private sector critical. The airline industry could provide the necessary demand and investment to make significant headway. Surely this opportunity cannot be ignored? Once the forests are gone, it is likely forever, and the remaining carbon budget yet more challenging.
In terms of volume, emissions reductions from land use, which includes agriculture and forestry, have the potential to mitigate a massive 2.4 - 8.5 GtCO2e, with a further 12 GtCO2e possible by 2030.
The airline demand for offsets
The demand for offsets from CORSIA is substantive. It is estimated by ICAO that airlines will generate an offset demand of 288 to 376 MtCO2e/year by 2030. By comparison, the volume of offsets used in the EU ETS averaged approximately 202 MtCO2e over the period 2008-2012, according to analysis by the European Commission. So from a standing start, airlines will need access to offsets very quickly. At the same time, demand for offsets is also increasing from other sectors as countries implement their Paris commitments.
Forest carbon has the capacity to provide a high quality volume of offsets to address this demand. Forest conservation is also one of the most cost-effective types of carbon offsets, behind only wind and run-of-river hydropower, and has the largest volume transacted within the existing voluntary carbon markets. The evidence is clear that forest carbon offsets have huge potential to meet the coming demand for offsets from CORSIA at a competitive price.
High quality forest carbon offsets are a well-established approach to achieving emissions reductions. But that isn’t all. Forests provide a host of additional benefits to ecosystems and communities around the world – beyond climate goals.
Forest carbon offsets offer real carbon mitigation and their inclusion in the Paris Agreement puts an official stamp of approval on them. The climate deal represents an internationally negotiated and agreed-upon framework for sustainable land use management and forest conservation. Governments worldwide recognise forests as an effective climate mitigation strategy, and land use was included in 119 of the 162 carbon mitigation plans submitted by countries as part of the agreement.
The ICAO Assembly resolution that established CORSIA explicitly recognised the tools for mitigating emissions included in the Paris Agreement, such as REDD+ and the existing Clean Development Mechanism, a previous UN initiative through which countries purchase emissions reductions from developing countries. Additionally, these offsets will need to meet the ‘emission unit criteria’ that is currently being developed by ICAO.
Forest conservation projects that deliver clear carbon benefits have come a long way in the last two decades and there are now well-practiced and robust methods for ensuring emissions savings are permanent. For example, projects first perform detailed risk assessments to understand the threats to the forest. Secondly, a buffer system is introduced that acts like an insurance mechanism. If forest land is then found to be lost (as part of the intensive monitoring process), the corresponding number of offsets in this buffer are retired, meaning they are never placed on the market, ensuring the integrity of the offsets that are finally issued.
Stringent standards also put safeguards in place to prevent leakage, which in this case means the risk that deforestation is moved outside a project area, similar to the threat that refineries and other energy intensive industries would move outside of Europe once the EU ETS came along. To avoid and account for this in forest conservation projects, a detailed risk assessment informs a leakage mitigation strategy. The risk areas are then monitored and any leakage is deducted from the emissions performance of the project. Countries are also working on national and jurisdictional level systems to account for every tonne of forest carbon; in time bottom-up projects can ‘nest’ into these top-down systems.
Beyond carbon benefits, forest carbon projects also deliver a range of other environmental and social benefits, often referred to as co-benefits, especially when compared to carbon reductions in other sectors such as land-fill gas management. These include protecting biodiversity-rich primary forest, creating sustainable livelihoods for impoverished local communities, providing climate resilience to sustainably produced crops, as well as a range of ecosystem services such as mitigating flooding, reducing soil erosion and conserving water resources. For example, UNEP estimates tropical forests provide food, water, fuel and medicine to 1.6 billion people. Because of this, forest carbon projects are one of the most volume transacted offset types on the voluntary carbon market.
It is also for these reasons that forests are easy to explain to the public, including airline passengers, as a worthwhile activity for airlines to invest in. They have already featured in voluntary airline offset schemes, including those run by Delta and Qantas, as well as other voluntary schemes such as BP’s Target Neutral.
Ensuring high quality
Not all offset projects are created equally. Over the years, a handful of poorly designed and executed forest carbon and other projects have had negative impacts on their local people and environment and, rightfully, have received a bad press. However, these are not representative of common practice. They do not prove that saving forests is not a climate solution that brings sustainable development to local communities and protects a host of critical environmental services.
It is standard for forest carbon offset project developers to verify the emissions reductions and additional benefits through independent third parties. The Verified Carbon Standard and the Climate Community and Biodiversity Alliance are leaders on carbon accounting and co-benefits respectively. They have detailed and sophisticated requirements to ensure that projects certified by them have lasting benefits and maintain environmental integrity.
ICAO is working to define the types of offsets that will be accepted as part of the emission unit criteria and what can be used for ‘early action’. The rules for early action should provide further certainty next year on offset vintages and project types that will enable airlines to start investing in offsets. Carbon offsets for CORSIA must come from reliable, well-established, cost-efficient sources in order for ICAO to be successful in meeting the scheme’s climate targets.
It is clear that forests offer an opportunity for the aviation industry in many respects; they are well-positioned and immediately available to fulfil the demand; and are a real win-win for companies, society and the planet.
The author, Jessica Verhagen, is VP Business Development and Strategy for Ecosphere+. Founded by the Althelia Climate Fund, the company offers scalable and diverse supply, and innovative structures, for different types of forest carbon offsets and sustainably produced commodities that deliver additional environmental and social benefits.