GREENAIR NEWSLETTER 29 JULY 2016
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US government lays out R&D strategy to address key challenges hindering development of alternative jet fuels
Fri 29 July 2016 – The White House has released a US federal strategy setting out prioritised research and development (R&D) goals and objectives to address key scientific and technical challenges that are holding back the development, production and use of economically viable alternative jet fuels (AJFs) at commercial scale. With input from a range of federal and non-federal stakeholders, the strategy has been put together by an interagency working group made up of expert representatives from across government. Despite significant progress by commercial and military aviation over the past decade to develop, evaluate and deploy AJFs, there are not as yet sufficient volumes that can compete on price with petroleum fuel to meet the needs of the aviation industry, say research officials. Cooperation between the federal government and the private sector, including industry, NGOs and academia, as well as international coordination, will be crucial to addressing the challenges, says the strategy report.
The blueprint is the product of work by the Alternative Jet Fuel Interagency Working Group (AJF-IWG) that was established in late 2013 under the White House Office of Science and Technology Council Subcommittee on Aeronautics Science and Technology. Made up of representatives from nine federal agencies, the AJF-IWG will lead the implementation of the efforts identified in the strategy, analyse ongoing federal efforts and collaborate with federal and non-federal stakeholders, including the Commercial Aviation Alternative Fuels Initiative (CAAFI). CAAFI participated in the survey and review process and provided input to the strategy during the initial stakeholder discussions held in January 2014, and says it will continue to play a strong role in targeting solutions to the existing challenges.
The strategy identifies four thematic areas: feedstock development, production and logistics; fuel conversion and scale-up; fuel testing and evaluation; and integrated challenges such as sustainability. Each set of goals and objectives have been projected to be completed over near-term (<5 years), mid-term (5-10 years) and long-term (>10 years) time periods.
The strategy report acknowledges the commercial-scale deployment of AJFs also faces challenges that are not specifically scientific or technical in nature. They include price volatility of conventional fuels; production infrastructure barriers; legislative, regulatory and policy barriers; complicated financing structures; investment uncertainty; and labour force and skill constraints. These can limit the benefits of scientific and technical R&D advances but by recognising the broader context for this emerging industry and the roles of non-technical research, for example socio-economic analyses, their impact can be maximised. “Scientific and technical R&D can inform policy decisions and can help reduce technical risks and potentially mitigate economic and financial risks,” says the report.
International coordination should continue to be facilitated by federal agencies, it recommends. Primary areas include scientific and technical R&D conducted under multi-lateral and bilateral agreement to mutually share risks, minimise duplication of effort and benefit from best practices; harmonisation of efforts to define sustainability criteria to ensure biofuels achieve desired GHG reduction goals and do not negatively affect food security and biodiversity; and policy and market development efforts to ensure a global market for AJFs.
Welcoming the strategy, CAAFI said: “It will accelerate the deployment of AJFs in civil and military aviation. Our leadership and work teams will serve as a key connection point between federal efforts and non-federal and industry stakeholders. We look forward to working with the organisations in the AJF-IWG to aid in its implementation.”
CAAFI will host several sessions on the strategy at its forthcoming biennial General Meeting in October. They will include discussions on the execution of the strategy led by the federal agencies; the integration of ongoing and planned activities across the public-private partnership spectrum to meet the strategy’s objectives; and the providing of feedback on adjacent objectives and activities that could be undertaken to fulfil the strategy’s vision.
Federal Alternative Jet Fuels Research and Development Strategy , Commercial Aviation Alternative Fuels Initiative (CAAFI)
Lufthansa Group fails for the first time to improve annual fuel efficiency of its fleet
Thu 28 July 2016 – After years of continuous improvement, Lufthansa Group’s fuel efficiency gains stalled in 2015, just matching the achievement of the previous year. The group’s specific fuel consumption measurement recorded an overall 3.84 litres per 100 passenger kilometres (l/100pkm) on its passenger operations, and freight transportation specific fuel consumption increased from 221 g/km in 2014 to 225 g/km in 2015. Overall carbon emissions rose from 27.8 million tonnes (Mt) in 2014 to nearly 28.2 Mt in 2015, a 1.4% increase. This year, the Group will add 52 new, more efficient aircraft to its fleet and is the first to operate the new Airbus A320neo, with the A350-900 entering next winter. The new Bombardier CSeries has just entered service with its Swiss subsidiary. The Group said it was also working to improve its carbon footprint through over 500 fuel efficiency programmes it has started since 2013.
Lufthansa Group’s latest annual ‘Balance’ Sustainability Report – the 22nd year it has been published – does not offer a reason for being unable to improve on its overall 2014 fuel efficiency record but does note the payload factor was 1.1% lower than the preceding year. Passenger numbers, though, increased to a record 107.7 million in 2015.
Lufthansa, which is responsible for around 70% of the Group’s total fuel consumption, was the only airline member that managed to improve its fuel efficiency, registering 3.88 l/100pkm in 2015 compared with 3.91 l/100pkm in 2014. Low-cost subsidiary Germanwings, the worst performer in the Group, slipped back from a fuel efficiency of 4.18 in 2014 to 4.25 l/100pkm last year. However, the Group points out that overall it continues to decouple performance from fuel consumption and whereas consumption has risen by 186% since 1991, performance has improved by 350%.
The Group has 600 aircraft in the fleet as of the end of last December, with an average age of 11.8 years, a slight increase over the previous year. Lufthansa’s aircraft average 10.6 years, Swiss 14.0 years and Austrian 16.2 years, with the Germanwings fleet having the lowest average at 8.8 years.
Lufthansa is expecting to add five A320neo aircraft to its fleet by the end of 2016, which are claimed to be over 15% more fuel efficient than previous models. The airline says this translates into around 5,000 tonnes less CO2 emitted per aircraft per year and is the equivalent of 485 flights between Berlin and Paris. The new aircraft are also equipped with vortex generators as standard to prevent the occasional noise nuisance that affects the A320 family when approaching an airport (see article). The airline group has 116 of the aircraft on order, 45 of which are for the larger A321neo and are earmarked for Lufthansa and Swiss.
The Airbus A350-900s that will enter operations from 2017, on average consume just 2.9 l/100pkm, around 25% less than that consumed by aircraft currently flying and has a noise footprint up to 50% smaller, says Lufthansa.
In 2008, the Group set up an environmental programme to take it through to 2020 but says it plans to evaluate and reassess the programme during this year “in the light of current requirements”, and a working group of environmental experts has been set up. The environmental strategy of the Lufthansa Group is overseen by the Group Environmental Issues department, with all larger subsidiaries having their own environmental departments or a coordinator.
The Group continues to work towards the development of sustainable alternative fuels and as of January this year, airlines within the group that serve Oslo Airport have been refuelling their aircraft with a blended fuel mix containing 5% of bio-kerosene under an initiative with Air BP, SkyNRG and airport operator Avinor (see article). Around 1.25 million litres of sustainable fuel will be made available for a period of one year and used by about 5,000 flights. Lufthansa is also planning to release this year details of a blending study it carried out with a German Armed Forces research institute.
The ‘Balance’ report notes the EU is currently still applying its emissions trading system (EU ETS) to all intra-European flights despite the development of a global system by ICAO. “In the opinion of the Lufthansa Group, insular solutions of this kind are the wrong approach, as they unilaterally burden European airlines in contrast to airlines outside of Europe,” it argues.
Lufthansa Group ‘Balance’ Sustainability Report 2016
Virgin Atlantic records small decline in fuel efficiency as it awaits positive impact of new 787s and A350s
Wed 27 July 2016 – Although posting a strong financial performance last year after having moved back into profitability in 2014, long-haul carrier Virgin Atlantic suffered a blip last year when the overall fuel efficiency of its fleet declined marginally. The airline’s CO2 per revenue tonne-kilometre (RTK) in 2015 was measured at 0.791 kg, a 9% reduction since a 2007 baseline but a 1% increase on 2014. The fall in inefficiency was due to fleet and network changes, the later than expected entry into the fleet of new Boeing 787s and slightly lower passenger and cargo loads, says the airline. However, better progress was made on reducing the noise output of its aircraft and is on track towards reaching a 2020 target. The airline reports delays in the certification process is holding back a planned ‘proving’ flight using sustainable fuel produced by partner LanzaTech.
Virgin Atlantic’s headline goal is a 30% improvement in CO2 per RTK from 2007 to 2020 and although progress against the target did not go as expected, “the overall trend in this metric is one of improvement and CO2 per passenger-kilometre improved fractionally,” said the airline’s Sustainability Specialist, Jessica Cross Brown.
Carbon emissions from aircraft fuel burn in 2015 amounted to 4.4 million tonnes, a 4% decrease from the 4.6 million tonnes recorded in 2014. As well as indirect Scope 2 and 3 emissions, the airline’s latest ‘Change is in the Air’ 2016 sustainability report also, for the first time, publishes details on the carbon footprint of Virgin Holidays. The Virgin Atlantic sustainability team has taken on some of the responsibilities for some of Virgin Holiday’s sustainability initiatives.
The airline’s noise target is to reduce noise output per aircraft movement by at least 6dB – a 75% reduction in noise energy – on average between 2012 and 2020, and so far has achieved a reduction of 2.25dB.
By the end of 2015, Virgin Atlantic had nine Boeing 787s in the fleet and four more are expected during 2016. However, the later than expected deliveries meant relatively inefficient four-engined A340-600s had to be kept in operation longer than had been planned. The airline also flew less cargo in 2015 than in previous years and the 787 also has a smaller cargo hold than the A340-600s, meaning less space for cargo on a number of long-haul routes. “This has made us slightly less efficient overall, as the highest levels of RTK efficiency are based on the highest loads of both passenger and cargo,” says Virgin Atlantic.
“We have forecasted a decrease year on year up until our target year of 2020. However, we realise with five years to go, it’s going to be tough. We will reassess all our targets later on in 2016 as part of our ongoing assessment to make sure they’re the most representative metrics for the company we are now.”
Two weeks ago it confirmed it was buying or leasing 12 new Airbus A350-1000 aircraft in a $4.4 billion investment, with deliveries expected to start in 2019.
“The aircraft will play a pivotal role in our fleet programme, helping to create one of the youngest, cleanest, greenest fleets in the sky,” commented the airline’s CEO, Craig Kreeger. “We’re looking forward to introducing this aircraft to our customers, as its impressive economics, fuel performance and quiet flying offer an irresistible proposition that makes long haul travel more enjoyable and better for the environment.”
Virgin Atlantic ‘Change is in the Air’ 2016 sustainability report
The inclusion of Swiss flights in the EU ETS under ‘Stop the clock’ is lawful, says ECJ Advocate General
Tue 26 July 2016 – The continued inclusion of flights between the EU and Switzerland in the EU Emissions Trading Scheme (EU ETS) is justified and legal, a senior advisor to the European Court of Justice (ECJ) has ruled. The ‘Stop the clock’ decision by the EU in 2013 to temporarily suspend the obligation for airlines to monitor and report emissions and to surrender allowances in respect of flights between EEA States – EU plus Iceland, Norway and Liechtenstein – and most third countries did not extend the moratorium to Switzerland. In the ongoing case, Swiss International Air Lines (SWISS) has argued this was unequal treatment under EU law and is seeking recompense for the allowances it was required to purchase and surrender to cover emissions from flights between EEA States and Switzerland in 2012.
SWISS brought the challenge against the UK government in the High Court in London since the Lufthansa-owned airline is administered under the EU ETS by the UK. The application was dismissed but the Court of Appeal subsequently decided to stay the proceedings and refer the case to the EU’s highest court for a preliminary ruling.
The airline is seeking an undisclosed sum to cover the allowances it was required to purchase and surrender in respect of its 2012 emissions. The EU Transaction Log shows SWISS emitted 1.23 million tonnes of CO2 during the year on flights to and from EEA airports. It received nearly 600,000 free allowances, leaving it to make up a shortfall of 629,035 allowances. The airline is also seeking damages for being discriminated against under the EU principle of equal treatment.
The EU justified that flights to and from Switzerland should not be treated as between the EEA and third countries, and so subject to the temporary derogation, on the grounds that to do so would create a distortion of competition and would undermine the integrity of the EU ETS.
In his Opinion delivered last week, Advocate General Saugmandsgaard Øe said the principle of equal treatment is not recognised under public international law and nor is there a general principle, in its external relations, obliging the EU to accord third countries equal treatment in all respects. “The European Union is not therefore required to treat equally flights between Member States of the EEA and Switzerland, on the one hand, and flights between EEA Member States and the other third countries, on the other, the difference in treatment as between those air routes being comparable to different treatment of third countries,” he says. “Nor is the Union under any obligation to treat operators of those two categories of flights equally.”
The ECJ is not obliged to follow the Advocate General’s Opinion but does so in the majority of cases. The court’s judgment normally follows between three and six months after the Opinion.
The EU and Switzerland started negotiations of linking their respective emissions trading schemes in 2011, which would allow covered entities in both systems to trade emissions permits with each other and create a level playing field. However, the talks suffered a setback at the beginning of 2014 when a referendum in Switzerland voted to back a proposal to limit immigration quotas from the EU and prompted retaliation from Brussels. Another point of argument between the two sides was over the inclusion of Swiss aircraft operators into the Swiss ETS when the link between the two schemes entered into force.
According to an announcement by the Swiss Federal Office for the Environment (FOEN), negotiations on the linkage were concluded this past January, with aircraft operators to be included in the Swiss ETS, and an agreement was initialled. However, the treaty must still be ratified by both sides. “The timetable for this open,” it said.
Advocate General’s Opinion in full
EPA issues endangerment finding that paves the way for aircraft GHG regulation in the US
Mon 25 July 2016 – The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has issued a finding that confirms greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) from aircraft are a significant contributor to air pollution and climate change. Although the EPA does not propose what action should be taken in its endangerment finding, the move paves the way for mandatory GHG standards for US aircraft, the only transportation sector not yet subject to such national regulation. The government agency said it was concerned with FAA projections that GHG emissions from aircraft are likely to increase by 43% between 2010 and 2036, while light vehicle and rail emissions are forecast to fall. Following a long legal campaign to force the EPA to act on aircraft emissions, environmental groups welcomed the move and called on it to enforce stronger standards than those proposed by ICAO’s environmental technical committee CAEP in February.
The EPA said US aircraft emit 12% of emissions from the US transportation sector and 29% of emissions from all aircraft globally. In its ruling, the EPA finds the six GHGs from commercial aviation are dangerous to human health and welfare and will now undertake a separate notice and public comment rulemaking process to propose and issue emission standards applicable to the particular GHGs from the classes of aircraft engines covered by the finding. The ruling applies to jet and larger turboprop aircraft covered under ICAO’s international aircraft CO2 standard. Once the EPA issues an aircraft GHG standard, it will be up to the FAA to prescribe regulations to ensure compliance.
The EPA and FAA were closely involved the ICAO CAEP decision-making process setting the international CO2 standard, which is expected to be approved by ICAO Member States at its Assembly starting late September and formally adopted in March 2017. The CO2 standard would apply to both new aircraft type designs as of 2020 and new deliveries of current in-production types from 2023, with a cut-off date of 2028 for production of aircraft that do not comply with the standard.
However, the recommended standard has come in for sharp criticism from environmental groups which say it is not stringent enough.
“This endangerment finding is key because it obligates the EPA to take regulatory action to cut CO2 emissions from aircraft – it triggers a legal mandate,” said Drew Kodjak, Executive Director of the International Council on Clean Transportation. “Our analysis clearly shows that the standard proposed by ICAO won’t offer meaningful reductions. This opens a real possibility to get a better standard.”
Annie Petsonk, International Counsel for the Environmental Defense Fund, said: “US aircraft have emitted the lion’s share of global warming pollution worldwide. We should shoulder the lion’s share of the pollution-cutting responsibilities as well. EPA’s endangerment finding today sets the stage for the US to step up to those responsibilities and lead the world on cleaner air travel, with a standard more stringent than the one adopted by ICAO.”
WWF Deputy Director for international climate policy, Brad Schallert, added his own call for more stringency and a tougher stance by the EPA: “Merely matching those guidelines is insufficient. If the EPA is to fulfil its obligations under this finding to protect public health and welfare, then it must go further.”
Schallert said the US Administration needed to build on the EPA announcement and redouble efforts in negotiating a successful outcome on a global market-based measure before the ICAO Assembly. “We can’t afford a repeat of the weak CO2 standard,” he said.
Added Petsonk: “As important as it is, a greenhouse gas efficiency standard for airplanes is only one piece of the cleaner skies puzzle. Given the enormous growth slated for this industry, we need both more efficient engines and an agreement to cap the total climate pollution from international civil aviation worldwide. At its Assembly, ICAO will vote on a proposal to do just that, using an innovative market-based mechanism to ensure that airlines achieve net carbon neutral growth from 2020. Securing a robust agreement in ICAO will be a key part of President Obama’s legacy on climate change.”
The finding comes after a number of legal challenges the EPA has faced from environmental groups since 2007, which warn they will take further action if the Agency does not come up with tough regulations. “EPA officials finally acknowledged airplane pollution’s obvious climate threat, but they’re still not actually cutting the airline industry’s skyrocketing emissions,” said Sarah Burt, Staff Attorney at Earthjustice. “We will continue to use the power of law to compel EPA to put in place standards that actually reduce harmful pollution from aircraft.”
Vera Pardee, Senior Counsel at the Center for Biological Diversity, said: “After nearly a decade of denial and delay, we need fast, effective EPA action. The Obama administration must quickly devise ambitious aircraft pollution rules that dramatically reduce this high-flying hazard to our climate.”
Brussels-based campaign group Transport & Environment (T&E) said the EPA finding should be used as an opportunity for bilateral action between the EU and the United States on reducing the growing climate impact from aviation. It said both markets account for over half of global aviation emissions, with aircraft manufactured by the two major US and EU players, Boeing and Airbus, responsible for over 90% of global aviation CO2.
“We now have the real possibility of the EU and the US cooperating to fix the deeply-flawed UN aviation efficiency standard. The European transport commissioner, Violeta Bulc, should grab this opportunity with both hands.”
Updated July 27:
In a reaction from industry, Nancy Young, VP Environmental Affairs at Airlines for America (A4A), told the New York Times: “We’re already at the edge of feasibility. You cannot adopt a standard that you don’t know you can meet for an aircraft. Safety is job No. 1 in aviation. And if you say maybe we can push technology to meet this, that’s a worry.”
She said a separate US standard could hurt American companies like Boeing and General Electric as those such as Airbus in France and Mitsubishi in Japan would not have to meet the standard.
EPA Regulatory Announcement on aircraft GHG emissions , EPA – Final endangerment finding (pdf)
NATS achieves emissions reductions but increasing air traffic poses an environmental performance challenge
Mon 25 July 2016 – UK air navigation service provider (ANSP) NATS achieved a reduction of 34,195 tonnes in ATM-related CO2 emissions in 2015, according to its latest annual Responsible Business report, but this masks a tough challenge it is facing to reach an ambitious 2020 goal of reducing overall emissions from aircraft under its control by 10% against a 2006 baseline. Although it has made strides in airspace improvements and procedural changes to aircraft operations, a rebound in air traffic since a downturn towards the end of the last decade has added to the task ahead. NATS’ Head of Environmental and Community Affairs, Ian Jopson, explained the action NATS is undertaking to reduce both carbon emissions and the impact of aircraft noise on communities. As current Chair of Sustainable Aviation, Jopson also outlined the future direction of the UK cross-industry group.
Now over half way through the 10% CO2 reduction programme, NATS has achieved a cumulative reduction of 1.12 million tonnes of CO2 since the programme started in 2008, representing overall savings of around 4.3%. “Clearly,” admitted Jopson, “we still have a lot to do.”
When NATS sat down in 2007 to set its environmental ambitions, there was no benchmark to measure itself against as no other ANSP had – and still hasn’t – set a specific CO2 reduction target. “We didn’t really know if 10% was achievable but it’s open to debate as to whether we would have reached 4.3% by 2015 if the target had been less ambitious,” Jopson told GreenAir. “It’s taken us a huge amount of effort just to get to where we are and has involved over 200 changes to UK airspace.
“At the same time as we are working to keep UK airspace safe – our primary role – we also need to create the extra capacity to cope with increased traffic demand, and in a responsible manner that reduces fuel burn and emissions. We remain committed to our 2020 target, it’s just we will need to work even harder to reach it.”
Many of the improvements in the early stages of the programme were small efficiency gains and “tweaks”, related Jopson. “What we need now is to deliver big changes and airspace modernisation,” he said.
In addition to the self-imposed carbon reduction target, NATS’ environmental performance is also measured under an initiative called 3Di that it developed in conjunction with the UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) and introduced in 2012. The three-dimensional inefficiency (3Di) methodology measures NATS contribution to shrinking ATM-related CO2 emissions and financially penalises or rewards performance. The lower the 3Di score, the better the performance.
Handling around 2.3 million flights during the year, NATS average score in 2015 was 30.1, just behind the target of 29.7 but within the service performance range – called the ‘dead band’ – set by the regulator, whereby NATS is neither penalised nor rewarded. However, this compares with an average score of 29.8 the previous year and, looking ahead, a tightening of the target score to 29.3 in 2016. The dead band is also progressively narrowing each year out to 2020.
“Set in the context of growing traffic, the target is getting tougher and if we can’t make changes then we will go into penalties,” noted Jopson.
NATS is addressing the challenge on two fronts. Firstly, it is engaging with its operational communities located around the UK and making extensive use of its Flight Optimisation System (FLOSYS), a tool that equips controllers to analyse the environmental efficiency of flights in near real-time. It takes radar data that is updated every three minutes and combines it with the 3Di metric to produce a graphical representation of every flight in UK airspace that can better identify operational improvements to help airlines reduce fuel burn and emissions on an aircraft-by-aircraft basis.
Although this has provided a better understanding of where the inefficient hot spots are in the network, Jopson said structural changes are also required to the airspace system. The first phase of an airspace change over the south-east of England started in February this year, which includes a point merge arrival system for London City airport that keeps arrivals over the sea instead of over land, new departure routes for London City to enable aircraft to climb to higher altitudes more quickly and changes to allow daytime traffic departing Stansted to climb higher more quickly.
“Additionally, some of the solutions to our congested airspace actually lie outside our boundaries,” said Jopson. “For example, when an aircraft is approaching our airspace and there is a system delay, we can request a neighbouring ANSP to contact the aircraft and ask it to slow down and so delay it entering a holding pattern.”
This arrivals management collaboration with ANSPs in France, Ireland and the Netherlands – called XMAN (Cross Border Arrival Management) – has streamlined the flow of aircraft into Heathrow. What started as a trial has now entered permanent operational service and Jopson reported NATS is looking to expand the procedure to other airports. “The benefits are quite significant,” he said.
XMAN has cut by up to a minute the time spent holding, so saving fuel and CO2 emissions as well as reducing noise for affected communities, says the Responsible Business report. It is intended to be deployed at 24 airports across Europe by 2024 under the Single European Sky initiative.
Another initiative expected to provide substantial fuel and emissions savings in the future will see NATS’s Prestwick control centre providing free-route airspace above 25,500 feet in 2017, with Swanwick control centre implementing it above 33,500 feet in 2021. The Borealis Alliance will create a single area of high altitude airspace covering nine northern European countries that will enable users to plan and take the most cost-effective, fuel-efficient and timely routes across the entire Borealis airspace rather than following pre-defined routes. NATS is in the process of introducing free-route into areas of Scottish airspace before extending it more widely cross the UK.
There will also be huge benefits to be realised from improvements to North Atlantic airspace, said Jopson, where NATS has been able to safely reduce aircraft separation and allow aircraft to reach their optimum cruise level more quickly.
Balancing CO2 and noise concerns
Balancing CO2 emission reductions with community noise concerns is a major challenge for the ANSP, particularly as the skies above the UK are some of the busiest in the world. Modernising congested airspace to make it more efficient is critical but change is generally viewed with suspicion by the public, says NATS’ Head of Corporate Affairs, Jane Johnston, in the report.
“Some recent trials of new aircraft procedures have affected communities in ways we simply didn’t expect,” she writes. “Complaints have increased and many new local noise action groups are now working to stop any change at all. While change could actually address many of the worst problems, we have a big job to persuade people of that.”
New technology has enabled more precise flight paths for aircraft arriving at airports through performance-based navigation (PBN), but can bring both environmental benefits and problems, as a recent trial around Heathrow demonstrated.
“The issue with PBN is that it is very accurate and unlike traditional navigation where there are route variations, in this case routes are very concentrated and provide a different problem for communities,” said Jopson. The Heathrow trial involved tightly controlled alternating PBN routes that provided affected communities with respite at certain times of the day – a world first, believes Jopson.
“We didn’t know if this was feasible, which is why we trialled it,” he said. “But we did get some negative reaction and we have learned that we need to work much more closely with communities when we design airspace and routes. It’s a two-way process in which we need to recognise better the community viewpoint, and communities in turn need to understand what is possible with this new technology.”
Jopson is sure PBN can provide significant fuel burn and emission reductions as well as beneficial noise outcomes and points to its recent successful implementation at Stansted and Luton where NATS worked with the airports to design routes around communities to avoid noise impacts.
PBN has been mandated across Europe by the early part of the next decade, he reported, and will be rolled out globally through ICAO. “That’s why we are taking a proactive stance now to understand best how to deploy it,” he said. “Some countries have already gone ahead with it but in some instances law suits have resulted.”
A tried and tested procedure to reduce emissions and noise is through continuous descent operations (CDOs), involving arriving aircraft employing a smooth continuous descent instead of a series of steps. NATS has been working with 15 UK airports and 22 airlines to make this practice more widespread.
In 2015 it recorded 781,899 CDO flights, an additional 31,639 on the previous year and representing a CDO rate of 77% of all flights. However, in 2014 the increase in the number of CDO flights was higher at 36,682 and the percentage of flights carrying out CDOs has remained static since 2013, although the rate is as high as 85% in the London area.
As NATS continuously monitors CDOs, it is able to supply all UK airports and airlines with performance data but Jopson admits it has been tough to drive change. In conjunction with UK industry group Sustainable Aviation, NATS has been educating airlines on the environmental, social and health benefits CDOs can bring, even if the procedure means extra effort from pilots and air traffic controllers.
Jopson is the current Chair of Sustainable Aviation, which has over 40 UK members and signatories covering airlines, airports, air navigation services and aerospace manufacturers, with a number of working groups overseen by Programme Director, Dr Andy Jefferson. It also has an independent advisory board of external sustainability experts representing academia, NGOs, trade unions, government and the CAA to challenge and track the work programme. According to Jopson, the national initiative, which aims to make the industry “cleaner, quieter, smarter”, is unique in the aviation world, although interest had been shown from elsewhere in setting up something similar.
Having passed its tenth anniversary late last year, Sustainable Aviation releases regular reports that measure and track the progress of the industry against its goals. It also produces technical papers that provide guidance and voluntary codes of practice for industry on issues such as cabin waste recycling and reducing the environmental impacts of ground operations and arriving and departing aircraft.
Jopson is particularly pleased with what he describes as the “robust, evidence-based” roadmaps Sustainable Aviation has published to support how the UK aviation industry can grow sustainably, which have so far covered CO2, noise and sustainable fuels. The CO2 roadmap, released in 2012, had become an influential report that had been well-received by government and regulators, he said. It is currently being updated to reflect the latest traffic forecasts and recent future technology scenarios, and is due for publication later in the year.
“Noise is also of course a big issue for the industry so we will also look at updating our noise roadmap next year with more information, for example, on how the aircraft fleet is changing and operational procedures we are implementing,” he reported. “Local air quality has become another important issue and we are developing an initial position paper that we expect to have ready by this autumn.”
As well as helping those within the aviation industry advance their day-to-day sustainability practices, the strength of Sustainable Aviation, said Jopson, was in presenting a united cross-industry position to regulators, government and also the travelling public.
“My fundamental premise is that despite being a competitive and complex industry, we are stronger when we collaborate, and we can deliver more together than independently.”
European airlines and NGOs step up pressure for agreement on global CO2 scheme for international aviation
Wed 20 July 2016 – With just two months before the start of the ICAO Assembly, airlines and environmental NGOs are stepping up pressure on governments to reach an agreement on a global scheme to tackle growing carbon emissions from international aviation. So too is the European Commission, which today reaffirmed its support for the measure in a report laying out its strategy for a low-emission transport future in Europe, saying it will review the EU’s own aviation ETS scheme in the light of the ICAO outcome. New European airline trade body A4E welcomed the Commission’s commitment, adding it expected the EU to replace the ETS with the global scheme. However, NGO Transport & Environment (T&E) warned that EU efforts to decarbonise ground transport would be offset by increases in emissions from aviation and shipping. Meanwhile, a meeting has been convened at ICAO next month to discuss progress by States on the scheme.
Although the aviation sector is taking a wide range of actions to reduce emissions, the growth in air traffic is outpacing reductions in emissions, says the Commission in its ‘European strategy for low-emission mobility’ report, and further progress is needed at the international level.
The EU, says the report, is “fully committed” to reaching agreement on a global market-based mechanism (GMBM) to address international aviation emissions. “This GMBM and other measures, such as the recently agreed carbon dioxide standard for new aircraft are intended to ensure the carbon neutral growth of international aviation from 2020,” it says, adding the EU will review the inclusion of aviation in the Emission Trading System (ETS) “in the light of the Assembly’s outcome.”
The EU also pledges to continue its financial and technical contribution through ICAO to capacity-building projects with developing countries, particularly across the African continent and some Least Developed Countries and Small Island States.
The ambitious target by the aviation sector to cap emissions from 2020 and tackle climate change can only be achieved if governments support the ICAO GMBM scheme, said Airlines for Europe (A4E), which was set up earlier this year and now includes 11 members, including IAG, easyJet, Ryanair, Air France KLM and Lufthansa.
“A4E welcomes the Commission’s commitment to the ICAO process and urges governments to reach an agreement at the Assembly to address international aviation emissions at a global level,” commented A4E Managing Director Thomas Reynaert. “We call on governments to support a global deal for aviation carbon emissions because it is the only way we can continue to grow our industry sustainably to meet demand.”
During the subsequent review of the ETS, adds the A4E statement, the legislators “should ensure the competitiveness of European carriers and avoid adverse financial and political implications.” The implementation of a global scheme should make existing and new economic measures on a regional or national basis unnecessary, it adds. “A4E’s expectation is that the global carbon offsetting scheme will replace the aviation ETS.”
A4E said it shared the Commission’s assertion in its report that advanced biofuels will be particularly important for aviation, which did not have the alternative energy sources available to ground transport.
“The only fuel alternative available for aviation in the short to mid-term are sustainable low-carbon fuels but we face high prices and low availability,” said Reynaert. “Some test and commercial flights have been carried out by dozens of airlines – among them A4E member airlines – and have proven their effectiveness. We are investing in developing biofuels but governments should incentivise sustainable jet fuels in the same way they do for cars. Support from governments is critical for these initiatives to progress.”
A4E is calling for a more favourable policy framework that would create a stable market environment for investors and airlines that would help lower investment risk and also provide incentives for biofuel use under the EU Renewable Energy Directive.
“A4E also supports current ideas in the European Parliament to encourage Member States to use bio-waste, in particular for the production of sustainable low carbon fuels for aviation, within the scope of the Proposal for a Directive amending Directive 2008/98/EC on Waste,” ends the statement.
While welcoming the Commission’s ambitions on cleaner road transport in line with aspirations of full decarbonisation by 2050, Brussels-based NGO T&E warned emission reductions in vehicles could be offset by increases in aviation and shipping. It accuses the Commission of abdicating responsibilities on the two sectors to the “ineffective” ICAO and IMO.
“While the Commission has seized the initiative to decarbonise vehicles, the opposite is true for planes and ships despite the importance of European action in these sectors,” said T&E Executive Director, Jos Dings.
Advocacy group Carbon Market Watch, which campaigns on environmental market-based mechanisms, is running a social media campaign in the run-up to the ICAO Assembly to raise public awareness of the GMBM and is targeting specific airlines during July and August in a ‘tweetathon’ calling for them to take action to ensure an effective GMBM deal is reached. During September, the campaign will target transport and environment ministers around the world.
Meanwhile, ICAO has announced it will convene a ‘Friends of the President’ meeting on August 22-23 in Montreal to evaluate progress made on the GMBM since the High-level Meeting in May that discussed a draft Resolution proposal on the scheme’s design framework. The meeting next month, in which all ICAO Member States and representatives from industry and civil society have been invited to attend, will hear the results of recent bilateral and multilateral negotiations.
Meetings are understood to have taken place between US and Chinese officials, and last week the Spanish government convened a two-day closed conference in Madrid involving around 25 countries, including from the EU, China and the US. Differences have yet to be reconciled on important issues such as the criteria on which countries should be included in the scheme from the start and how the offsetting obligations should be apportioned. Another issue also believed to be outstanding is over the freedom to be accorded to the EU over the application of its ETS to international aviation.
However, in a positive move, following a meeting of the leaders of Canada, Mexico and the United States under the North American Climate, Clean Energy and Environment Partnership, a White House statement indicated their support for the adoption “by all countries” of the GMBM scheme and that the three countries would join the first phase (2021-2026). While Canada and the US would be expected to join anyway under the revenue-tonne kilometre (RTK) de minimis criteria stipulated in the current draft of the scheme, Mexico is below the threshold and so would be entitled to be exempted from the first phase, but the statement would indicate it has decided to voluntarily participate, an example that many hope will be followed by other countries in a similar position.
Added pressure on the US administration to support a successful outcome at ICAO could come very soon with reports suggesting a finding is imminent by the US Environmental Protection Agency on the endangerment to public health of carbon emissions from aircraft.
Produced from high-energy tobacco crops, SAA undertakes Africa’s first sustainable biofuel commercial flight
Fri 15 July 2016 – Africa’s first sustainable biofuel commercial flight took place today when a South African Airways (SAA) Boeing 737-800 flying from Johannesburg to Cape Town used a jet fuel produced from nicotine-free tobacco plants grown in the Limpopo region of South Africa under the Solaris project. The initiative is a collaboration involving SAA, Boeing, SkyNRG, WWF-SA and Sunchem, which is the developer of the novel energy tobacco crop. Cultivated by smallholder and commercial farmers, the Solaris crop is expected to provide an opportunity to grow sustainable bioenergy resources while stimulating socio-economic development in the region. Strong support for the project has come from the Roundtable for Sustainable Biomaterials (RSB), and both Sunchem and SkyNRG are both certified by the sustainability body. The fuel for the flight was refined by AltAir, which is currently undergoing RSB certification.
“SAA is committed to a sustainable future and this flight highlights the bold steps we are taking to protect and preserve our environment while creating opportunities for the economic development of our people,” said Musa Zwane, the airline’s acting CEO. “We are pleased to join the ranks of global airlines who have made a commitment to a better and cleaner way of flying.”
Added Maarten van Dijk, CEO of SkyNRG, which supplied the fuel: “We are proud to supply South African Airways together with our partner AltAir Fuels, which is the first and only refinery worldwide that produces sustainable biojet fuel on commercial scale. This flight represents an important next step for Project Solaris and we thank the Dutch government for their ongoing support that has been key in achieving today’s success.”
The high-energy, GMO-free Solaris crop has high seed and limited leaf production compared to traditional tobacco and as well as producing sustainable jet fuel, it can be used for making press cake for animal feed. An advantage of the crop is that all the agronomic inputs needed for its cultivation – such as fertiliser, water and crop protection – are similar to traditional tobacco farming, so local communities are already familiar with the farming protocols.
With a global oversupply of tobacco at present, the programme has been set up to help farmers with small plots of land to certify their products and gain access to markets for sustainable biofuels and biomaterials. According to RSB, Solaris has a much lower input cost than traditional tobacco, making obtaining finance for farming less problematic, particularly for smallholder farmers, and there is an opportunity for farmers to form cooperatives. Instead of a one-off harvest, Solaris is also expected to provide up to three harvests annually, so providing an income throughout the season.
“Over the last two years, Sunchem SA has successfully worked side by side with local farmers in Marble Hall, Limpopo, to grow the Solaris crop and make today’s biofuel flight a success. It shows that the patented Sunchem Solaris technology opens a new market for Southern Africa and beyond,” said Hayo de Feijter, CEO Sunchem SA.
As well as marking Boeing’s 100th anniversary, today’s biofuel flight also coincides with Nelson Mandela’s upcoming birthday, and RSB notes that his Foundation’s work on combating poverty and improving human rights aligns with RSB’s Principle 4 on human and labour rights, and Principle 5 on rural and social development.
Rolf Hogan, RSB Executive Director said: “RSB is honoured to be part of Project Solaris, which can improve the lives of smallholder farmers in South Africa as well as inspire others around the world to show that it is possible to produce environmentally, ethically and socially sustainable biofuel. We hope this project serves as an example that can be duplicated around the world in various regions with diverse feedstocks.”
Boeing partners with Embraer in next phase of ecoDemonstrator test programme
Thu 14 July 2016 – The next phase of Boeing’s ecoDemonstrator environmental test programme will involve an Embraer E170, the first time a non-Boeing aircraft has been used. It will test a variety of new technologies intended to boost fuel efficiency and reduce carbon emissions and noise, and flights will also be powered by a Brazilian-produced biofuel blend. The E170 will serve as the flying testbed and will undergo operational testing in Brazil during August and September. Technologies that will be employed include LIDAR, ‘ice phobic’ aircraft paint, a new wing design to reduce noise and special sensors to better understand in-flight aerodynamics. The collaboration marks another step in the relationship between the two aircraft manufacturers that began in 2012 when they signed a cooperation agreement. Meanwhile, Boeing has increased its projection for new aircraft demand to 39,620 deliveries over the next 20 years.
“As industry leaders, we have a unique opportunity to invest in technologies that encourage our industry’s long-term, sustainable development, while supporting our customers’ environmental goals,” commented Boeing’s Chief Technology Officer, John Tracy, on the latest ecoDemonstrator.
LIDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) uses lasers to measure air data parameters such as true airspeed, angle of attack and outside air temperature. The technology shows potential to increase air data reliability by complementing current sensors that Boeing says could lead to further innovations to improve fuel efficiency. The ‘ice phobic’ paint is designed to reduce icing and help prevent build-up of dirt and bugs due to its low adhesive property, and also helping operators save water by reducing the need for frequent aircraft washing.
A new wing design with improved slats that could reduce noise on take-off and approach will be tested, as will special sensors and air visualisation techniques near the wing surface to better understand in-flight aerodynamics that could lead to further innovations in wing design to improve fuel efficiency.
Following the opening by Boeing and Embraer of a new joint biofuel research centre in São José dos Campos last year, the ecoDemonstrator flights will use a locally-produced jet fuel blend made up of 10% bio-kerosene and 90% conventional fossil kerosene.
The latest test programme will illustrate continued investments to improve fuel efficiency and environmental performance in order to meet the new carbon emissions standard announced by ICAO earlier this year, say the two manufacturers.
Meanwhile, Boeing’s latest 20-year Current Market Outlook predicts demand for 39,620 new commercial aircraft worth $5.9 trillion over the period, an increase of 4.1% over last year’s forecast, as a result of a 4.8% annual growth in passenger traffic. The Asia market, led by China, will take around 38% of global total deliveries. The single-aisle market will be especially strong, says the manufacturer, with low-cost carriers and emerging markets driving the growth.
Over the same 20-year period, Embraer projects demand for 6,400 new aircraft in the smaller 70-130+ seat capacity category, with a value of $300 billion. This category will increase from 2,670 aircraft in 2015 to 6,690 by 2035, the fastest growing segment among all aircraft seat capacities, claims the company, with over half of all deliveries (57%) going to carriers in North America (31%) and Asia Pacific (26%). Embraer expects an average annual growth in revenue-passenger kilometres (RPKs) of 4.7% over the period.
Boeing – ecoDemonstrator , Embraer – Environmental Responsibility , Boeing’s Current Market Outlook 2016-2035 , Embraer’s Market Outlook 2016-2035