Fuel efficiency improvement by Emirates passenger fleet stalls due to airspace and runway closures
Wed 3 Feb 2016 – The overall fuel efficiency of Gulf carrier Emirates improved by a modest 1.0 per cent in the year to 31 March 2015, although the performance of its passenger operations showed no gain on the previous year despite the addition of new aircraft to the fleet and the retirement of older planes. At 75 months (6.25 years), the average age of the fleet remains as one of the youngest in the industry. According to the Emirates Group’s latest environmental report just published, this was due to the impact of airspace closures caused by security concerns in Syria, Iraq, Libya and Ukraine, which necessitated longer routings to avoid these areas, and an 80-day runway closure at its Dubai hub that meant aircraft having to carry more contingency fuel. With the addition of strong network growth, fuel consumption and carbon emissions were up 10.2 per cent on the previous year to around 9 million tonnes and 28 million tonnes respectively.
Passenger fuel efficiency for the 2014-15 financial year was 3.99 litres per 100 passenger-kilometres, the same as the previous year, with the fuel efficiency for the freighter fleet improving by 4.2% to 0.182 litres per freight-tonne-kilometre to produce a combined efficiency of 0.3057 litres per tonne-kilometre. This, says Emirates, still makes it 14% more efficient than the IATA fleet average fuel efficiency.
During the year, 12 new Airbus A380-800 and 10 B777-300ER passenger aircraft, plus two new Boeing 777-200LRF freighters, entered the fleet. Those retired were 10 Airbus A340-500 and Boeing 777-200 aircraft, leaving the airline with a total fleet of 232 aircraft.
The airline says that despite a 15% reduction in the average price it paid for jet fuel compared to the previous year, the $7.8 billion spent on jet fuel remained its single largest area of expenditure, making up 34.6% of total operating costs. Fuel efficiency measures, therefore, can make a significant impact on the bottom line as well as helping to reduce emissions, says the report.
Among the efforts undertaken to improve efficiencies include working with aviation authorities and air traffic control organisations around the world to test and validate new fuel-saving flight procedures, such as performance-based navigation (PBN). The airline is also participating in the Indian Ocean Strategic Partnership to Reduce Emissions (INSPIRE). On the ground, it reports operational measures such as idle reverse thrust saved 4,059 tonnes of fuel in 2014-15, equivalent to 12,786 tonnes of CO2, while shutting down one engine while taxiing saved 2,093 tonnes of fuel, or 6,593 tonnes of CO2.
Emirates also reports on its local air quality emissions from its aircraft below 3,000 feet using ICAO’s landing/take-off (LTO) cycle, in particular oxides of nitrogen (NOx), carbon monoxide (CO) and unburnt hydrocarbons (UHC). NOx, CO and UHC emissions increased by 6.7%, 10.8% and 13.4% respectively, in line with growth in the fleet and network but well below regulatory limits, it says. The airline notes that UHC and CO emissions grew at a higher rate than CO2 emissions because the increase in cruise fuel efficiency in newer engines comes with a trade-off of higher UHC and CO emissions during the LTO cycle but are minimal in the cruise phase of flight.
On noise, Emirates says that apart from two wet-leased freighters, all its fleet meet or exceed ICAO Chapter 4 noise standards, the most stringent for aircraft currently in operation. Its exclusive A380 operations at Heathrow has led to a high ranking in that airport’s Fly Quiet Programme, reports the airline.
The Emirates Group also includes air services company Dnata and has substantial ground-based operations in Dubai and many other countries around the world. The ground vehicle and equipment fleet increased from 4,680 vehicles in 2013-14 to 4,812 in 2014-15, resulting in an overall rise in fuel consumption of 4.4% in Dubai and 0.4% worldwide.
One factor contributing to the increase in petrol consumption relative to diesel was the replacement last year of 4.2-litre diesel buses with 2.8-litre petrol buses for airside crew transfers, which also helped to reduce ground emissions by 70g CO2 per km. As a result of a change in government regulations and mandatory new fuel specifications, the ground transport fleet in the UAE began using low-sulphur diesel that will greatly reduce levels of particulate emissions, says the Group. In Dubai, Dnata took delivery of 30 new electric tractors to replace diesel-powered vehicles.
As a result of a number of energy and water efficiency initiatives, the Group recorded substantial falls in electricity and water consumption at its facilities. On a per head of staff basis, electricity consumption fell by over 20% and water by a third.
“As the scale of our operations expands, we are ever more conscious of our responsibility towards the environment and communities we serve. We are aware that our efforts to reduce resource use will not only reduce our environmental impact, but will also help build our business resilience,” said Emirates Airline and Group CEO Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum.
“Our annual environmental report is a report card, and also a commitment to continuously improve our environmental performance.”