GREENAIR NEWSLETTER 7 MARCH 2016
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Study raps industry and media for hyping up new technologies that over-promise on sustainable aviation
Fri 4 Mar 2016 – Industry and the media have hyped up new technological solutions that promise emissions reductions and so lead to an era of sustainable air travel but have yet to turn out to be feasible, finds a study by researchers at the University of Surrey in the UK. This reliance on technology in cutting emissions propagates a culture of inaction by industry and policymakers, they argue, and although technology can cut harmful emissions, it must be viewed alongside stronger regulation. The researchers, in collaboration with NHTV Breda in the Netherlands and the University of Otago, New Zealand, explored how new technologies such as alternative fuels, solar flight and a range of aircraft design options are presented by industry and media, alongside the subsequent level of success in practically applying these technologies.
The researchers argue in their study, published in the journal Transportation Research Part D, that discussions around these technologies creates what they consider to be “myths”, such as zero-emissions flight, and shields the aviation industry from closer scrutiny of its sustainability policies.
“Air travel has experienced substantial growth over the last 40 years. By 2050, energy use in aviation will have tripled, accounting for 19% of all transport energy use, compared to 11% in 2006,” said Dr Scott Cohen of the University of Surrey.
“This is in sharp contrast to pledges by industry to reduce flight emissions through technology, aiming for ‘zero-emission flight’ through overly hyped developments such as solar planes and hydrogen fuels.
“The way in which new technologies are presented constitutes a myth, a form of propaganda which denies the truth that progress in climate policy for aviation has stalled. The use of these technology myths by industry and government relieves anxiety that nothing is being done, by pointing to future ‘miracle’ solutions, which in reality are unfeasible.”
Cohen’s team looked at a range of new technologies and their media reporting, including aircraft laminar flow and composites, which the study says have only produced marginal fuel efficiency gains; blended wing body design; solar and electric powered aircraft; and alternative fuels derived from jatropha, animal fats, algae and hydrogen.
The team claims that solar flight has been presented by industry as key to sustainable flight, while the creators of the first solar plane to fly around the clock (Solar Impulse) admit that solar planes would never replace fuel-powered commercial flights.
“We see a definite pattern when it comes to the hyping of these technologies,” said Paul Peeters, Associate Professor Sustainable Transport and Tourism, NHTV Breda. “Take solar or electric flight. Through the media, the industry successfully presented these technologies as major breakthroughs that would have beneficial implications for future, zero-emission flight. In reality this is rhetoric that takes headlines away from the fact that emissions policy is failing, and continually points to a ‘better future’ just around the corner.
“While these inventions are fascinating from a research perspective, they won’t act as a panacea for the harmful, climate damaging emissions that the aviation industry is increasingly releasing into our atmosphere. Industry will always wish to present an optimistic view of their role in this issue, but our research has also shown that some politicians are complicit in propagating these myths and need to stop relying on rhetoric and start referring to facts.”
The study recognises that because aviation is a transnational activity, it is difficult to govern politically and as such, politicians may justify non-action beyond efficiency improvements achieved through technology as a way to avoid upsetting the ‘established order’. Policy measures could likely lead to resistance from lobby groups, industry, the public and political opposition, the researchers accept, but conclude that “aviation technology myths should be recognised, confronted and overcome as a critical step in the pathway to sustainable aviation climate policy.”
‘Are technology myths stalling aviation climate policy’ study
JetBlue commits to future regular use of aviation biofuels and joins sustainability standards body RSB
Fri 4 Mar 2016 – JetBlue has signalled its intention to use aviation biofuels in regular commercial operations in the future by joining the Roundtable on Sustainable Materials (RSB), becoming the first US airline to do so. The carrier believes biofuels are inevitable for the future of the aviation industry so it is now actively exploring the purchase of biofuel options for commercial use and plans “to develop a biofuel commitment” in 2017. JetBlue joins other aviation organisations that have backed the RSB standard to ensure biofuels are ethical, sustainable and credibly sourced. RSB members include Airbus, Boeing, IATA, SkyNRG and the airline coalition Sustainable Aviation Fuel Users Group, with South African Airways and Swiss as the only other airlines with direct membership. JetBlue has also announced it will partner with the US Fish and Wildlife Service to help fight illegal wildlife trade in the Caribbean.
“JetBlue is joining the RSB as renewable biofuels will become increasingly more important for aviation to grow responsibly,” said the airline’s Head of Sustainability, Sophia Mendelsohn. “There are no silver bullets when it comes to finding the right biofuel, so we are reaching out for partners – we are all in this together.”
The airline said that with RSB guidance, it would join airlines and other stakeholders in pursuing multiple sources of biofuels that minimised unwanted environmental and social impacts throughout their supply chain and lifecycle.
“RSB is the world’s strongest standard for sustainable biofuels,” said its Executive Director, Rolf Hogan. “We look forward to seeing other airlines follow JetBlue’s commitment and leadership by becoming members of RSB.”
New York-based JetBlue points out that it was the only airline to sign the White House’s 2015 American Business Act on Climate Pledge that supports an international climate agreement and has also committed to reduce global emissions from commercial air travel in partnership with aircraft and engine manufacturers, the FAA and others.
Steps to improve fuel efficiency and reduce emissions include fitting Sharklet wingtips to its Airbus aircraft and other technology investments totalling $50 million to support more efficient operations that are expected to save over 500,000 gallons of fuel burn per year. To address emissions from its flights, the airline encourages both passengers and crewmembers to offset their emissions when they fly.
JetBlue and the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) launched their new five-year partnership yesterday, World Wildlife Day, with a customer education and awareness campaign and say they will work together beyond an initial inflight video to develop online content, social media campaigns and strategies to reduce demand for illegal wildlife. Seat-back TVs on all JetBlue flights will inform passengers about responsible travel and shopping practices in the Caribbean.
“Tourism brings in 22 million visitors a year to the Caribbean. Degradation of wildlife and biodiversity is a risk to demand for air travel to the region, thus impacting JetBlue,” said Mendelsohn. “We’ve joined with the US Fish and Wildlife Service to create a large-scale dialogue and action highlighting the numerous ways to travel, eat and shop in the Caribbean, leaving the region stable for future tourism.”
An increase in the illegal wildlife trade in the region is contributing to the decline and potential extinction of animal species such as sea turtles, parrots, iguanas and coral.
“The Caribbean is considered to be a wildlife trafficking hotspot,” said USFWS Director Dan Ashe. “We are thrilled to work with JetBlue to empower travellers and Caribbean residents to reduce demand for illegal wildlife. We are committed to protecting these special places and species, and with the public as our partners, we can support conservation worldwide by asking questions and learning the facts before buying any wildlife or plant product.”
Jet Blue – Sustainability , Roundtable on Sustainable Materials (RSB) , US Fish and Wildlife Service – Travelling to the Caribbean
EU politicians still to be convinced by ICAO efforts on measures to limit international aviation emissions growth
Thu 3 Mar 2016 – European parliamentarians have given their support to international efforts at ICAO to find a global agreement on limiting the growth of aviation emissions but are concerned that the level of ambition may not be enough in a post-2020 climate change world. Four MEPs from different political alliances, including the leader of a controversial parliamentary delegation to ICAO last month, Ivo Belet, took part in a meeting held in the European Parliament last week to discuss the issue following the recent Paris Agreement. Along with the European Commission and EU member states, MEPs will be required later this year to review and decide the scope of the Aviation EU Emissions Trading System (EU ETS) from 2017 that is dependent on the outcome at ICAO’s autumn Assembly on a global market-based measure (GMBM) to cap the growth of international aviation emissions. Meanwhile, the first meeting of a new high-level group to take the GMBM process forward took place last week at ICAO.
Reporting on the parliamentary delegation’s visit to Montreal during the two-week session of ICAO’s Committee on Aviation Environmental Protection (CAEP), which resulted in an agreement to recommend a CO2 standard for aircraft, Belet said the MEPs had “intense, interesting and useful” discussions with ICAO’s Council President and Secretary General. He expected a delegation would also visit ICAO in May, when a High-level Meeting (HLM) is due to take place on the GMBM issue, and in September/October when the Assembly convenes.
The Belgian centre-right MEP said the CO2 standard “was a step in the right direction” but “was not overly ambitious”. He said Parliament’s position on the ICAO Assembly outcome, even if a deal was reached on the GMBM, would depend on its level of ambition and the criteria agreed. The GMBM only made sense, he argued, if it had a robust and independent monitoring, reporting and verification (MRV) mechanism, the quality of carbon offsets to be used was guaranteed and it contained a clause to periodically review the scheme.
The Parliament’s Aviation EU ETS rapporteur, German centre-right MEP Peter Liese, said as it is a global industry, Parliament would prefer a global deal for aviation but it was difficult to justify that even under a perfect agreement, other industrial sectors had to reduce their emissions even further than that required by aviation under the EU ETS. Liese noted that aviation was responsible for more emissions than 100 states that attended the Paris COP put together and there was a need to act.
He said the EU had decided to pull back and ‘stop the clock’ twice on the Aviation EU ETS to allow ICAO negotiations to progress but it would be hard to do so a third time if the process failed to deliver this year.
Both Belet and Liese accepted that as part of the GMBM agreement it would be necessary to deal with the concerns of developing nations under the UNFCCC climate principle of common but differentiated responsibilities (CBDR) but they agreed it was important that the scheme redistributed exempted emissions to ensure 100% global coverage.
French MEP Karima Delli, the Greens coordinator on the Parliament’s Transport Committee, said aviation was a big contributor in the steep rise of transport emissions and the sector’s global share was expected to increase significantly. The CO2 standard had been applauded by industry and the European Commission, she said, “but along with carbon-neutral growth, it is not enough and we must talk about other solutions.” Backed by social democrat UK MEP Lucy Anderson, Delli said serious consideration should be given to introducing an aviation kerosene tax, as it was the only transport sector that did not pay tax on its fuel.
European Commission advisor on the decarbonisation of the transport sector, Peter Vis, responded the agreement on the CO2 standard had been a positive move in steps to agree a GMBM and the EU ETS ‘stop the clock’ decision had been very helpful in the ICAO GMBM negotiating process. He said the standard and the GMBM were just two of ICAO’s ‘basket of measures’ and should not be seen as the only action ICAO was taking to address international aviation emissions. The GMBM was referred to by some delegations at ICAO as a ‘gap filler’, he said, “and that I think is how it should be seen.”
Vis said that with so many nations involved, and requiring the agreement of all of them, the GMBM process was not easy and even the mechanism’s main objective of global carbon-neutral growth from 2020 was challenged by countries such as Brazil, China and India. “The goal itself is controversial – it’s not a given,” he told the meeting. “However, I’m sure we all want to achieve it as Paris has shown how much we need a contribution from the aviation sector.”
He said it was accepted there was a need for an equitable solution to the problem and there was an acknowledgement by the ICAO Council President that CBDR was necessary to get an agreement, “otherwise the developing countries won't play ball.”
The way the President had proposed to deal with this was to have a phased-in GMBM with some developing countries joining after a five-year delay, and small island states (SIDs) and least developed countries (LDCs) perhaps never joining the scheme, reported Vis. Another method, he added, to deal with CBDR was to have the liability to offset the global growth of international emissions from 2020 be fixed by each operator’s share of emissions in 2020 for the duration of the scheme until 2035. Each operator’s emissions liability would be calculated by multiplying its 2020 emissions with the annual growth rate of the international aviation sector’s total emissions from 2021 compared to 2020 levels.
“The share of the bill that an operator is going to get is fixed but the amount they will be asked to pay will increase to reflect growth, and that is a redistributive mechanism,” he explained. “We are used to this kind of mechanism in the EU, which is made up of member states with different circumstances but making this work at ICAO on a global level is complicated.”
Representing the airline sector, Andreas Hardeman, Assistant Director of Environmental Policy at IATA, cautioned it was important to keep a global, rather than European, perspective when talking about aviation and climate change. The industry was still relatively immature, particularly in developing and emerging countries, he said, and future growth will be driven by an increase in living standards in countries like China, India and Indonesia.
Hardeman said the CO2 standard agreement would provide a positive momentum on the GMBM discussions and IATA was increasingly confident that a deal would be reached later in the year, although he conceded that IATA was considering alternative options on how it would achieve its own long-standing goal of carbon-neutral growth from 2020 should ICAO not decide on a scheme.
He added: “However, we are optimistic there will be an agreement of some kind at the Assembly. It may not be a perfect outcome and there will have to be concessions made, as with the CO2 standard, but we are working hard to support the process.”
IATA had been among the first to call for a CO2 standard back in 2009, said Hardeman, and the ICAO CAEP meeting had demonstrated the “art of the possible” with a political compromise reached that balanced needs and would result in a change of behaviour by aircraft manufacturers. The CAEP recommendation included a technical review of the standard after three years and a possible revision of the standard, he added.
The meeting was organised by Brussels-based NGO Transport and Environment, whose Aviation Director, Bill Hemmings, criticised the CO2 standard recommendation by ICAO CAEP members. He said the standard would have no impact on improving the emissions performance of new aircraft designs beyond what the market would require in 2024, when new types certified in 2020 are expected to first fly.
“In order to sell,” he said, “these new aircraft will need to achieve an emissions performance of at least level 10 – on ICAO’s increasing scale of stringency – whereas the standard only requires level 8.5.
“New in-production derivative aircraft will not now be regulated until 2028 and only at level 7. However, new in-production models such as the A320neo or the B737 MAX 8 are already flying and achieve level 8 or 9 – 12 years before the standard commences. So it will effectively act as a brake rather than an incentive.”
Hemmings calculates the environmental cost of delaying the in-production standard at over $6 billion.
Coinciding with the Brussels meeting, the new High-level Group (HLG) that has taken over GMBM policy responsibilities from the Environmental Advisory Group (EAG), which was set up after the 2013 ICAO Assembly, held its first two-day meeting last week and was chaired by former ICAO Council President, Roberto Kobeh González. The composition of the HLG has so far been kept secret although a European Commission official told GreenAir that officials from Sweden, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom were among 18 state representatives in the group.
The first task of the HLG meeting was to discuss the contents of a draft resolution proposal on a GMBM scheme, which is due to be presented to all ICAO member states for deliberation during the second round of Global Aviation Dialogues (GLADs) that will take place in five international locations over a three-week period starting on March 20.
NASA starts preliminary phase of initiative to design a greener, quieter supersonic passenger aircraft
Wed 2 Mar 2016 – NASA is attempting to revive the age of supersonic passenger travel with the award of a contract for the preliminary design of a ‘low boom’ flight demonstration aircraft as part of its New Aviation Horizons Initiative. Public resistance to the noise of Concorde as it passed through the speed of sound and its poor economics led to insufficient orders for the Anglo-French supersonic passenger aircraft, which first flew commercially in 1976 and was later retired in 2003. A Soviet-built competitor, the Tupolev Tu-144, failed to make more than 55 scheduled passenger flights in the 1970s following two crashes. However, NASA believes its mission to make passenger flight greener, safer and quieter can also be extended to include faster. The agency has awarded $20 million over 17 months to Lockheed Martin to complete preliminary design work for a Quiet Supersonic Technology (QueSST) aircraft. A future phase of the project will include validation of community response to the new supersonic design.
NASA’s 10-year New Aviation Horizons initiative, introduced in its Fiscal 2017 budget, includes goals to reduce fuel use, emissions and noise through innovations in aircraft design that departs from the conventional tube-and-wing shape. The passenger supersonic aircraft will be the first in a series of ‘X-planes’ that will typically be about half-scale of a production aircraft and likely to be piloted.
After conducting feasibility studies and working to better understand acceptable sound levels, NASA’s Commercial Supersonic Technology Project asked teams from industry to submit design concepts for a piloted test aircraft that can fly at supersonic speeds, but rather than creating the disruptive boom currently associated with supersonic flight, instead create what the agency describes as a “soft-thump supersonic heartbeat”.
The selected Lockheed Martin team will include as subcontractors aircraft engine manufacturer GE Aviation and wind tunnel model specialist Tri Models. The work will be conducted under a task order against the Basic and Applied Aerospace Research and Technology (BAART) contract at NASA’s Langley Research Center.
Under the contract, Lockheed Martin is expected to develop baseline aircraft requirements and a preliminary aircraft design, with specifications, and provide supporting documentation for concept formulation and planning. This documentation would then be used to prepare for the detailed design, building and testing of the QueSST jet, having also undergone analytical and wind tunnel validation.
In addition to design and building, this Low Boom Flight Demonstration phase of the project will also include the validation of community response to the quieter supersonic design. The building of the QueSST aircraft will fall under a future contract competition. NASA expects the design and build will take several years with aircraft starting their flight campaign around 2020, depending on funding.
“Developing, building and flight testing a quiet supersonic X-plane is the next logical step in our path to enabling the industry’s decision to open supersonic travel for the flying public,” said Jaiwon Shin, Associate Administrator for NASA’s Aeronautics Research Mission.
Boeing, Aeromexico and ASA set up new initiative to advance sustainable aviation biofuels in Mexico
Wed 2 Mar 2016 – An initiative has been launched by Boeing, Aeromexico and airport operator and jet fuel supplier Airports and Auxiliary Services (ASA) to advance research and development of sustainable aviation biofuels in Mexico. It will be supported by Mexico’s Sector Fund for Energy Sustainability and will be coordinated through the Mexican Bioenergy Innovation Center. Other participants in the programme include the Potosinian Institute of Scientific and Technological Research (IPICYT), which will lead a broader aviation biofuel development effort involving 17 institutions. Research will be conducted on biomass sourcing, fuel production, sustainability and lifecycle assessment, and aviation biofuel market development. In 2011, Aeromexico was the first airline to conduct a transatlantic biofuel commercial flight, using a nationally sourced jatropha blend supplied by ASA.
The Mexican government and participating institutions will fund the latest initiative for four years, with the aim of developing a self-sustaining business model. Nine national research centres are involved in the programme, plus Mexican companies Pemex, QENER and Tratamientos Reciclados del Sureste, and the Mexican Petroleum Institute. Others include the UAE’s Masdar Institute of Science and Technology and the US Joint BioEnergy Institute.
Feedstocks under consideration are expected to include jatropha, salt-tolerant salicornia and sewage sludge and projects will be expected to meet sustainability criteria established by the Roundtable on Sustainable Biomaterials.
In 2009, Boeing collaborated with ASA and also Honeywell’s UOP on a Mexican sustainable aviation biofuels R&D initiative involving government, private sector and academic stakeholders (see article). Initial studies were commissioned on promising biomass sources with a view to furthering the development of a viable market for locally sourced aviation biofuels. Also participating in the venture was Masdar and an initial research target was halophytic plants such as Salicornia. ASA Director of Fuel Services Alejandro Rios later joined Masdar to head up the Seawater Energy and Agriculture System farm and research project in Abu Dhabi that is working to develop for commercial production sustainable aviation biofuels from salicornia.
The Aeromexico flight in August 2011 from Mexico City to Madrid involved a Boeing 777-200ER using a blend of 30% biofuel sourced from around 20 tons of jatropha curcas derived fuel produced using UOP’s process technology (see article). The following year, an Aeromexico flight using a similar aircraft and a blended fuel derived from used cooking oil, jatropha and camelina supplied by ASA, was part of a series of flights taking ICAO officials from Montreal to the Rio+20 UN gathering in Brazil (see article). Later that year, Aeromexico started operating a series of flights between Mexico and Costa Rica using Honeywell’s Green Jet Fuel sourced from camelina grown in the United States (see article).
“In Aeromexico, we recognise that conducting a sustainable operation is an everyday commitment,” said the airline’s Chief of People and Industries Affairs Officer, Sergio Allard. “We are ready to assume the challenge and break the myth that you cannot be socially and environmentally responsible and competitive at the same time.”
Added Marc Allen, President of Boeing International: “Sustainable jet fuel will play a critical role in reducing aviation’s carbon emissions and will bring a new and innovative industry to Mexico.”
Aeromexico , Boeing – Environment , ASA
Faster jet stream as a result of climate change could add 70,000 tonnes of CO2 annually to transatlantic flights
Thu 18 Feb 2016 – Last month a British Airways Boeing 777-200 achieved a ground speed close to that of sound on a flight from New York to London, arriving an hour and a half before schedule in a time of 5 hours 16 minutes, reported the Daily Telegraph. The aircraft’s pilots were taking advantage of an unusually strong winter jet stream but such flying times across the Atlantic could become the norm as a result of climate change accelerating jet stream winds, particularly in the winter. However, a study by atmospheric scientists at the UK’s University of Reading found the effect of the jet stream on westbound transatlantic flights would mean longer journeys than currently normal and there would be a net increase in time, fuel and emissions on a round trip. The researchers calculated transatlantic aircraft would spend an extra 2,000 hours in the air every year when predicted concentration levels of CO2 are reached sometime this century.
Jet streams are fast-flowing air currents within the upper atmosphere that typically flow from west to east, fuelled by differences in air temperature. During the winter, the temperature difference between the colder Arctic and the warmer subtropical regions is far greater than during the summer, so producing a stronger jet stream. Climate change is intensifying the winter temperature difference as the subtropical and tropical regions are warming faster than the polar regions.
The research team, led by Dr Paul Williams, fed synthetic atmospheric wind fields generated from climate model simulations into a routing algorithm of the type used by flight operations planners, focusing on flights between London and New York and how they could be impacted when the atmospheric CO2 concentration is doubled compared to pre-industrial levels.
The average jet stream winds along the flight route between London Heathrow and New York JFK are predicted, say the researchers, to become 15% faster in winter, increasing from 77 to 89 km/hr, with similar increases in the other seasons.
The study, published in the journal Environmental Research Letters, found that a strengthening of the prevailing jet stream winds causes eastbound flights to significantly shorten and westbound flights to significantly lengthen in all seasons but do not cancel each out. Eastbound and westbound crossings in winter become around twice as likely to take under 5 hours 20 minutes and over 7 hours 00 minutes respectively.
Under the scenario, the winter jet stream would result in an eastbound flight from New York to London taking four minutes fewer to complete on average. However, a flight in the opposite direction, having to avoid the jet stream, would take five minutes and 18 seconds longer, so resulting in a round trip taking an extra one minute 18 seconds.
“This effect will increase the fuel costs to airlines, potentially raising ticket prices, and it will worsen the environmental impacts of aviation,” said Williams. “The aviation industry is facing pressure to reduce its impacts, but this study shows a new way in which aviation is itself susceptible to the effects of climate change.”
Even without an increase in traffic, he estimates the extra time in the air will cost airlines $22 million in fuel annually on transatlantic routes from burning an extra 32.7 million litres (7.2 million gallons) of jet fuel, and result in an additional 70 million kg of CO2 emissions, equivalent to the annual emissions of 7,100 British homes.
And, adds Williams, the impact is not just limited to transatlantic flights. “The jet stream encircles the globe and there is one in the southern hemisphere too,” he said. “It is possible that flights elsewhere in the world will also suffer from a similar jet stream effect.”
Williams and his team carried out a study two years ago that warned transatlantic flights would also experience considerably more turbulence as a result of a doubling in atmospheric CO2 concentrations (see article).
University of Reading – ‘Climate change will delay transatlantic flights’