Fast-growing Qatar Airways' carbon emissions increase by a fifth but efficiency performance improves
Qatar Airways A380 at Hamad International
Wed 2 Nov 2016 – Fast-growing Qatar Airways saw a 20.4% increase in carbon emissions in its 2015/16 financial year (ending March 31) compared to the previous year. However, its overall carbon efficiency improved by 1.4% from 0.807kg CO2/RTK in 2014/15 to 0.796kg CO2/RTK. The airline’s fleet at the end of the 2015/16 year comprised 77 Boeing and 103 Airbus aircraft, with an average age of 5.4 years that makes it one of the youngest in the industry. It currently has more than 300 new aircraft on order or option, including 72 Airbus A350 XWB and 80 Airbus A320neo family aircraft. According to its latest 2015-2016 sustainability report, the airline was accredited by IATA’s environmental assessment programme during the year and Doha’s Hamad International Airport, which is operated by Qatar Airways Group, was also accredited under ACI’s airport carbon programme.
The sustainability report covers the environmental performance and activities of the Group, which in addition to Qatar Airways’ passenger operations and Hamad International, also includes Qatar Airways Cargo, now the world’s third largest international cargo carrier, and Qatar Aircraft Catering Company.
As well as adding new fuel-efficient aircraft to its fleet, Qatar Airways is operating a fuel optimisation programme to test and implement ways to save fuel and reduce carbon emissions. These include identifying opportunities to reduce aircraft weight, optimising the efficiency of flight routes and reviewing the use of energy while taxiing to and from the runway.
The airline reports that optimising the quantity of the safe level of contingency fuel needed for each flight saved 3,637 tonnes of fuel during the year and maintaining the old Doha International Airport as an alternative aerodrome for diversions also saved a further 4,576 tonnes in contingency fuel. Other measures to reduce weight and so save fuel included procedures to calculate the optimal quantity of potable water to be uploaded based on aircraft type and destination. Reducing the number of in-flight magazines on board saved 237 tonnes of fuel over the course of the year.
This year, Qatar Airways tested retrofitted Sharklet wing-tips to one of its Airbus fleet that saved 4.6 tonnes of fuel and 14 tonnes of CO2 during the first week of operation. Reduced engine taxiing – shutting down at least one engine after landing – saved 2,100 tonnes of fuel during 2015/16 and reduced use of auxiliary power units saved a further 12,513 tonnes of fuel.
With the rapid growth of Qatar Airways, operations have similarly expanded at Hamad International, which opened in 2014 and handled over 30 million passengers, nearly 250,000 aircraft movements and 1.5 million tonnes of cargo in 2015/16. The Doha hub improved the average efficiency of CO2 per arriving, departing and transit passenger by 4.0% and per aircraft movement by 1.2% during 2015 compared to 2014.
With the region having one of the lowest levels of rainfall in the world, the conservation of natural resources has been made a key pillar in the Group’s sustainability programme. Over half of the water used in Qatar comes from seawater that has been desalinated through a costly and energy-intensive thermal process. Across the Group, new initiatives are being established to reduce water consumption and make water conservation a central part of daily activities. The airport’s waste water treatment plant, which has a capacity to treat over 28,000 cubic metres of waste water per day, allows 95% of captured water to be re-used in irrigation and facilities for activities such as aircraft and vehicle washing incorporate water recycling systems.
Qatar Airways is a member of the industry-led Sustainable Aviation Fuel Users Group and is partnering and investing in an algae biofuel project with Qatar University and Qatar Science and Technology Park. The research is led by the university’s Centre for Sustainable Development and has so far identified and mapped 98 local strains of algae and is classifying the productivity of each for biomass growth potential, resilience to local climatic conditions and potential as a biofuel feedstock. Stage 1 of the project was completed in June 2015 and involved establishing indoor laboratories and an outdoor demonstration facility. The development of a second stage is now under review.
The airline has adopted a formal environmental management system and introduced a group-wide governance framework to review progress on delivering objectives and support the continued improvement of environmental performance. Under the framework, the Group Environment Committee oversees a number of working groups: the Aviation Fuel and Carbon Committee, Cabin Waste Steering Group, Transportation of Wildlife and Animal Welfare Steering Group, Corporate Services Environmental Action Group and Hamad International Airport Environmental Action Group.
A programme to attain full certification of IATA’s Environmental Assessment scheme (IEnvA) was launched by Qatar Airways in December 2015 and this is expected by December 2017. It will cover all aspects of the airline’s operations, including aircraft during flight, catering and cabin services, ground operations and corporate activities. In November 2015, Hamad International attained ‘Mapping’ level of ACI’s Airport Carbon Accreditation programme.
Qatar Airways has joined the fight against the illegal trafficking of wildlife and in March this year signed the United for Wildlife Transport Industry Declaration at Buckingham Palace in London. The airline says it has a zero tolerance policy towards the illegal transportation of endangered species and is establishing systems to measure the quantity, type, origin and destination of legally transported endangered species passing through its global network.
“At Qatar Airways we take our role in the international aviation community very seriously,” said Qatar Airways Group Chief Executive Akbar Al Baker. “We lead by example in sustainability matters such as the management of our greenhouse gas emissions, through to the protection of wildlife and endangered species. As a global airline serving more than 150 destinations on five continents, every corner of the globe is important to us. We will continue our progress and help lead our industry to achieve carbon-neutral growth from 2020.”