GREENAIR NEWSLETTER 24 FEBRUARY 2017
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Early promise of green aircraft taxiing solutions has yet to materialise although progress on regulatory approvals
Fri 24 Feb 2017 – It is estimated around 18 million tonnes of CO2 are emitted annually during aircraft taxiing operations and efforts other than reduced engine taxiing have been ongoing for over a decade to find alternative, innovative solutions to save fuel, time and emissions. However, those efforts have had mixed results. A Honeywell/Safran EGTS joint venture was abandoned last year. A similar joint venture involving L-3 and Crane Aerospace, called GreenTaxi, also disappeared off the radar. This has left just two mainstream solutions: the WheelTug nose wheel electric drive system that propels a narrowbody aircraft from the stand to the runway, and IAI’s TaxiBot semi-robotic pilot-controlled vehicle. However, this has not dented the enthusiasm of IATA in seeing the potential fuel and emissions saving benefits of autonomous taxiing and has announced it will hold its second E-Taxiing conference in Singapore in May.
A report by UK cross-industry group Sustainable Aviation found that 30% of total CO2 emissions at Heathrow Airport came from aircraft taxiing and the use of auxiliary power units (APUs). Savings of 100,000 tonnes of CO2 per year have been calculated at Heathrow from reduced engine taxiing and APU substitution. On a global level, IATA has estimated a CO2 savings potential in the order of 6 million tonnes annually.
A 2010 MIT study found domestic US flights emit about 6 million tonnes of CO2, 45,000 tonnes of CO, 8,000 tonnes of NOx and 4,000 tonnes of HC taxiing out for take-off. These pollutants contribute to low-altitude emissions, directly impact local non-attainment of air pollution standards and represent a concern for human health and welfare, said the study.
Another study by Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands estimated fuel used during taxiing operations in 2012 cost around $7 billion and emitted in the region of 18 million tonnes of CO2.
Driven by increasing fuel costs, environmental concerns and a requirement by airlines to cut turnaround times at airports, a number of initiatives were launched that went further than reduced-engine operations when an aircraft taxis in or out. Working with Lufthansa Technik, L-3 Communications and Crane Aerospace started development of an electric taxiing system that was to be mounted on the main landing gear of Airbus and Boeing narrowbody aircraft, and a ground trial took place at Frankfurt Airport in 2011 on an A320. However, by 2013 the project had been quietly dropped.
That same year, at the Paris Air Show, Honeywell and Safran demonstrated their main landing gear-mounted Electric Green Taxiing System (EGTS) on an Airbus A320. At the Farnborough Air Show in July 2016, Honeywell announced it was halting the project “due to dramatically lower oil prices and the current aviation industry’s economic environment,” despite claiming widespread customer interest.
This has left the field to privately-owned, Gibraltar-based WheelTug to pursue its concept of placing two electric motors powered by the onboard APU in the nose wheel of a narrowbody aircraft to allow backward as well as forward movement. The company started operation back in 2005, ground testing the concept on an Air Canada Boeing 767 in Arizona. Since then, development has been slow and a number of timelines missed, including an expectation of a FAA Supplemental Type Certificate (STC) – a necessity before the system can be used in commercial flight operations – on the Boeing 737NG by the end of 2009. In 2014, the company said it was hoping for FAA certification by early 2016.
Neither Boeing nor Airbus is supporting the development but WheelTug says it has received letters of intent from 22 airlines for the installation of the system on almost 1,000 aircraft. Instead of purchasing the system, airlines would lease it from WheelTug and share cost savings, which the company estimates could amount up to $1 million annually per aircraft. It says the system uses one-sixth of the fuel currently burned on average while taxiing.
The Israel Aerospace Industries’ (IAI) TaxiBot solution is further down the certification route since it does not require modification to an aircraft. In September 2016 an STC was issued by the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and the Civil Aviation Authority of Israel (CAAI) for the Boeing 737NG, so completing certification for the whole 737 family. IAI reports the TaxiBot has successfully completed certification testing of the Airbus A320 family and it expects to receive formal certification by the middle of March.
The TaxiBot vehicle lifts and holds the aircraft nose wheel, and then transports the aircraft from the terminal gate to the runway and back, without using the aircraft’s own engines. It has been dispatch-towing Lufthansa 737 Classic commercial flights departing out of Frankfurt Airport since November 2014. Since 2008, IAI and its risk-sharing manufacturing partner TLD have been cooperating with Lufthansa LEOS in TaxiBot’s development, with the support of Airbus and Boeing, says IAI.
The company claims considerable interest has been shown from leading airlines, ground handling companies, airports and leasing companies around the world, with several working groups actively studying and preparing to introduce TaxiBot at leading airport hubs in North America, Europe and Asia. However, no customers have yet been announced.
A California-based company, Aircraft Propulsion Technologies (APT), has been working on an alternative on-board propulsion system for a number of years, for which it is still seeking support. APT has a patent issued in 2012 for its concept of replacing the APU in narrowbody aircraft with a small, certified turbojet engine that is sized for taxiing operations in addition to normal APU functions.
“The system would reduce fuel burn, emissions, jet blast and noise during taxiing because the small modern and efficient Full Authority Digital Electronic Control (FADEC) certified engine would consume less fuel and be quieter than conventional taxiing on main engine power,” explained APT’s Brij Bhargava. “It is the only onboard system that enhances aircraft safety on the ground and in flight, and the system does not require any changes to well-established airport ground operations.”
He noted that as far back as 2005, Boeing had plans to design, develop and certify a nose wheel taxi system, and had a patent assigned in 2008. But, he said, Boeing abandoned the programme and has never endorsed any other powered landing gear system.
“Over the past decade or more, several attempts have been made to reduce emissions from airplane taxiing operations by replacing main engine power with an electric alternative but none of these efforts has yet proven to be a practical solution,” he said.
However, WheelTug continues to press on with its nose wheel system development and last month it announced Canadian leisure carrier Air Transat would be supplying a Boeing 737 for testing in Montreal in exchange for a free system. This follows an announcement earlier in January that the FAA had approved the company’s certification plan for the system.
“We’ve done the majority of things we can do to improve fuel efficiency so we’re at the point now of looking for more out-of-the-box kind of ideas,” said Keith Lawless, Air Transat’s Senior Director of Business Sustainability and Improvement.
WheelTug and IAI TaxiBot are respectively Diamond and Gold sponsors of IATA’s E-Taxi Conference that will take place in Singapore on May 23-24. The event follows the Aircraft Taxiing Systems Conference held by IATA in Miami in February 2015.
“The well-received Miami conference looked at research and evaluation, and the 100+ participants demanded a follow-up conference to discuss subsequent developments,” said Klemen Ferjan, Airline Performance Metrics Manager at IATA. “Therefore, this next event will focus mainly on the technological readiness and regulatory approval of alternate taxiing solutions. Note that we have changed the name to capture several benefits of these solutions – ‘E’ in E-Taxi stands not only for Electric but also for Efficient and Environmental.”
San Diego International seeks interested parties for its expanding carbon offset air traveller programme
Thu 23 Feb 2017 – San Diego International Airport has issued a Request for Proposals (RFP) from parties interested in the supply of carbon offsets and the operation of its The Good Traveler programme. Launched in September 2015, the programme had offset around 11.5 million air miles by December 2016 as a result of passengers purchasing credits for offsetting the carbon emissions of their trips. Travellers can either purchase credits from The Good Traveler website or from retail outlets and works on a simple basis of a payment of $2 for every 1,000 miles flown. The programme has now been taken up by Austin-Bergstrom International Airport and the Port of Seattle, which operates Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, and is looking to extend its reach to the corporate and events markets.
The traveller can work out the distance from a link to a distance calculator tool on The Good Traveler website and then buys certified carbon offsets on a $2 per 1,000 miles of flying basis. The programme works on the basis that 1,000 miles of flying is equivalent to 344 pounds of CO2e emissions per passenger. As an example, a round trip between San Diego and New York comes out at just over 4,800 miles (or 4,200 nautical miles) in air distance, so the traveller would select and buy five offsets totalling $10.
Online purchasers can choose whether to support US wind farm, forestry and water projects or deforestation and degradation projects in Zambia and the Congo, with 100% of funds going to the offset providers. The US projects, managed by TerraPass, are the Arcata Community Forest in Northern California (verified carbon offsets through the Climate Action Reserve’s Forest Project Protocol), the Big Smile Wind Farm in Oklahoma (verified through the Verified Carbon Standard) and the Colorado Delta Base Flow Restoration project, which generates BEF Water Restoration Certificates (each WRC represents 1,000 gallons of restored water).
The two African projects are Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation VCS projects funded by Vancouver-based NatureBank. Located in the western reaches of the second largest rainforest in the world (the Congo Basin), the Mai Ndombe project protects approximately 299,645 hectares of forest from complete loss of forest cover while providing infrastructure and land use services to local communities. WWF is one of the stakeholders. The Rufansa Conservancy project protects both highly threatened wildlife and deforestation in an area between Zambia’s capital and the Lower Zambezi National Park.
The Good Traveler programme was used by industry association Airports Council International – North America (ACI-NA) to offset the travel of 595 attendees to a conference. It was estimated 270 tons of CO2e were generated in total and the cost of offsetting this was $2,000, less than $4 per attendee. ACI-NA has made a commitment to offsetting attendance travel within its Sustainable Conferencing Guidelines.
By working together, the three airports say they hope to create an industry-leading, sustainable travel experience for passengers and optimise the programme’s buying power in terms of offsets.
“The Good Traveler is a key component of San Diego International Airport’s sustainability strategy,” said Brendan Reed, the airport’s Director of Environmental Affairs. “With every mile we offset, we’re making a tangible contribution to the fight against climate change.”
Added Stephanie Bowman, Port of Seattle Commissioner: “Passengers can be personally involved in reducing their carbon footprint through an easy-to-use, intuitive offsetting programme designed specifically for air travellers.”
Bids under the RFP close on March 13 and a pre-bid meeting is being held on February 27. Details here.
MPs say the UK government is not doing enough to mitigate environmental impacts of an expanded Heathrow
Thu 23 Feb 2017 – A cross-party committee of MPs has criticised the UK government for not doing enough to show how an expanded Heathrow Airport can operate within environmental legal limits and climate targets. With London already in breach of EU air quality rules for 2017, a report by the Environmental Audit Committee says a new strategy is required to ensure that expansion is not granted at the expense of public health. It also accuses the government of providing a lack of detail on carbon emissions limits, with figures used for the costs and benefits of expansion being based, say the MPs, on a hypothetical international framework to reduce emissions that does not yet exist. They call for an independently scrutinised strategy to reduce carbon emissions from international aviation and say it is imperative the UK remains within the EU Emissions Trading System (EU ETS) after Brexit. Noise measures lack ambition, they argue, and if the government plans to rely on technical improvements to reduce noise impacts then it must provide the aviation industry with support.
The committee published an interim report in late 2015 following the recommendation by the Airports Commission for airport expansion in the south-east of England, since when the government has approved a third runway at Heathrow and recently published a draft Airports National Policy Statement (NPS) setting out its position (see article). However, says the committee in the introduction to its follow-up report published today: “We have seen little evidence so far of the ‘step change’ in the government’s approach to environmental mitigation which we called for in our interim report.”
The MPs are concerned that EU air quality limits may be watered down once the UK leaves the EU and call on the government to show during the NPS process how it plans to maintain or improve upon current air quality standards.
Surface access by road transport, rather than aircraft, is widely considered the main contributor to airport-related pollution and, says their report, a promise not to increase road traffic at Heathrow needs to be rigorously monitored, with clear accountability and consequences for failure. The committee noted there was no agreement between the government, local authorities and Transport for London about the costs of access improvements that would be required.
They call into question government claims that Heathrow expansion can be delivered within the UK’s climate change obligations and fear other industrial sectors will have to fill a ‘black hole’ in the 2050 UK carbon budget.
“The government has not set out what it means by ‘obligations’, let alone how it will meet them,” says the report. “It has not decided whether to accept the Committee on Climate Change’s recommendation on limiting emissions from international aviation. It would not be a credible position for the government to claim that it can deliver Heathrow expansion within emissions limits whilst rejecting independent advice as to what those limits should be and how they should be met.”
It describes the ICAO CORSIA carbon offsetting scheme as a “necessary first step” to reducing emissions from international aviation, “but it not sufficient in itself”. As it starts after the date by which the UK expects to leave the EU, the government should reconfirm its intention to participate in the global scheme from 2021, suggests the committee, and urge other major emitters, such as the United States, “to live up their commitments to participate from the earliest possible date and work towards strengthening the agreement during its review periods.”
The committee recommends the government to come up with an emissions reduction strategy for aviation. “Expanding Heathrow without drawing up such a strategy would be putting the cart before the horse.”
The committee would also like to see further clarity on how predictable respite for local communities from aircraft noise will be achieved and the specifics of a night time ban on scheduled flights, which so far commits to a 6.5 hour ban but leaves open the specific timing. The stated goal of fewer people affected by noise from Heathrow by 2030 shows a lack of ambition, they argue, and call for a comparison to be published that shows projected three and two runway noise levels in 2030 as well as with noise levels now, together with emphasis on the changing attitudes of the public to noise.
The MPs express their concern that the proposed Independent Aviation Noise Authority could become an advisory body within the UK Civil Aviation Authority and therefore an instrument of government, so preventing it from being independent or credible. Reservations were also expressed over whether a proposed Community Engagement Board, which would oversee issues such as noise insulation and compensation, would have sufficient powers.
Commenting on the report, the committee’s Chair, Mary Creagh MP said: “If the government wants to get Heathrow expansion off the ground it needs to show that a third runway can be built and run without exceeding legal limits on air pollution or breaching our carbon budgets.
“Worryingly, the government looks set to water down the limits on aviation emissions recommended by its own climate change advisors. That would mean other sectors of the economy, like energy and industry, having to cut their carbon emissions even deeper and faster.
“Mitigating the air quality, carbon and noise impacts of a new runway cannot be an afterthought. Ministers must work harder to show that Heathrow expansion can be done within the UK’s legally binding environmental commitments.”
Another committee of MPs, the Transport Select Committee, has just announced it is launching an inquiry into the draft Airports NPS. It is also currently conducting an inquiry into airspace management and modernisation.
Austrian federal court rejects Vienna Airport’s third runway plans on climate protection grounds
Tue 21 Feb 2017 – Austria’s Federal Administrative Court has ruled plans for a new third runway at Vienna International Airport should be rejected on climate change grounds, and that the positive economic benefits of the airport expansion were outweighed by the potential harm to the public interest caused by higher carbon emissions. Plans for the runway were first submitted back in 2007 and had been approved by the Lower Austrian regional government. In its 128-page decision, the court found the increase in aviation CO2 emissions from an extra runway was at odds with the country’s 2020 transport sector reduction target. Vienna Airport’s operator said a third runway was of vital importance to its economic future and described the decision as “legally and objectively untenable and false”. It now intends to file an extraordinary appeal with the Austrian Supreme Administrative Court and pledged to “continue to vigorously pursue this project.”
The ruling by the Federal Administrative Court concluded the third runway would increase Austria’s annual CO2 emissions by between 1.79 and 2.02% by 2025, against the country’s 2020 transport sector emissions reduction target of 2.25%. This, said the court, would be contrary to Austria’s national and international obligations to mitigate the causes of climate change. It also observed the short-term commercial and employment gains were outweighed by the likely economic consequences of a destabilised climate.
“The airport’s possibilities to reduce CO2 emissions through its own measures, such as the installation of solar panels and changing its vehicles to electric cars, were insufficient,” it added.
A legal observer noted that environmental protection is a right embodied in Austria’s constitution, in the constitution of the region of Lower Austria and in the EU’s Human Rights Charter. The head of the Environmental Law Institute at Linz University described the court’s decision as a landmark ruling.
A lawyer for the airport told the newspaper Die Presse: “As far as I know, it is unique that climate protection has been used as an argument to block a concrete plan.”
The airport operator, Flughafen Wien, says on its website the current system of two intersecting runways cannot effectively handle long-term international aviation development at the airport. In terms of runway capacity, it says 1 + 1 does not equal 2 but only 1.6, and it is not possible to meet the anticipated demand for international flights with the existing system. “The resultant bottlenecks threaten the future development of the airport and the region as a whole,” it warns. “With a third runway, Vienna International Airport will be able to consolidate its role as an economic driving force in the future.”
The airport argues an additional take-off and landing runway would also reduce delays, fuel consumption and noise by doing away with holding patterns and queued aircraft during busy periods.
According to its climate protection web page, air traffic accounts for 76% of CO2 emissions at the airport. Carbon emissions in 2013 totalled 308,169 tonnes, equivalent to 1.3% of the total of Vienna and Lower Austria, and 0.5% for the country as a whole. The airport is accredited at Level 2 (Reduction) of the industry’s Airport Carbon Accreditation programme.
Vienna handled 23.4 million passengers in 2016, an increase of 2.5% over the previous year, and is forecast to grow by up to 2% in 2017, although the operator sees the year ahead as “challenging”. The number of flight movements dropped marginally in 2016 by 0.2% and seat load factors fell by 0.8% to 73.4%.
Government policy action is key to the large-scale deployment of aviation biofuels, hears ICAO seminar
Fri 17 Feb 2017 – Although sustainable alternative fuels are key to meeting the aviation sector’s long-term emissions goals, supportive government policies are required to bring these fuels to global deployment. This was a central theme of last week’s ICAO Seminar on Alternative Fuels in Montreal that brought together a range of stakeholders including biofuel producers, regulators, the airline and aerospace sectors, and government representatives. The seminar was a precursor to a high-level ICAO Conference on Alternative Fuels to be held in Mexico City next October in which States will convene to devise strategies for developing commercial-scale supplies of sustainable jet fuels. Speakers at the seminar said policy efforts were required to reduce financial risk, ensure a level playing field with other transport sectors and create public-private partnerships. The seminar was also a chance for biofuel producers and airlines to provide updates on alternative fuel projects.
“While today’s commercial aircraft may be 80% more fuel efficient and 75% quieter than the first commercial jets, we must also keep in mind that the fuel efficiency improvements achieved, whether through new technologies or more efficient flight procedures, will likely not be enough to keep up with projected traffic growth,” said Dr Olumuyiwa Benard Aliu, ICAO Council President, at the opening of the seminar. “More must be done, and sustainable fuels are now poised to make important contributions with respect to near-term gains. We will therefore be focusing greater attention this year on policies to enhance the use of alternative fuels.”
While the technological feasibility of alternative jet fuels may be fully proven, he said, barriers to large-scale deployment remained. “The most significant challenge restricting their demand continues to be the price gap with conventional fuels, which in turn limits investment in the new refineries needed to scale up production,” he told delegates. “This is precisely the sort of negative cycle we must work to reverse.”
Possible solutions, he proposed, would include more long-term agreements between airlines and biofuel producers in order to ensure continuous demand and sufficient supply, together with incentive schemes and amendments to national energy policies.
Dr Aliu reported that ICAO’s Committee on Aviation Environmental Protection (CAEP) was working on future projections in alternative fuels production and their life-cycle environmental benefits. The accounting methodology of these benefits, he said, will be incorporated into the eventual monitoring, reporting and verification (MRV) system for ICAO’s CORSIA carbon offsetting scheme. CAEP is due to submit its MRV proposals shortly, he added, and would be considered for adoption by the ICAO Council later this year.
Jane Hupe, ICAO Deputy Director Environment, told the seminar that CAEP’s Alternative Fuels Task Force was undertaking work to define how an aircraft operator’s offsetting requirements under CORSIA in a given year can be reduced through the use of sustainable alternative fuels based on:
- Sustainability requirements defined by a set of sustainability criteria;
- An emissions factor defined by a set of indirect land use change (ILUC) life-cycle analysis default values; and
- The application of a methodology to define life-cycle emissions.
She said the ICAO 2016 Assembly resolution on CORSIA (A39-3) had called for the promotion of the use of emissions units generated under the scheme that both benefited developing States and also encouraged States to develop domestic aviation-related projects. This, she said, meant CORSIA emission credits could be generated from sustainable alternative fuel projects.
The co-leads of a CAEP task group working on policy guidance for the deployment of sustainable alternative fuels (SAFs) for aviation, Robert Boyd of IATA and Wendy Aritenang of the Indonesia Biofuels & Renewable Energy initiative, said in a presentation there was a need for States to include SAFs in their policies but previously little information had been available and best practices to look at. The task force has, they reported:
- Performed a literature review and developed a repository of policy options;
- Developed a qualitative metric to assess the effectiveness of policies, presented as a check-list instrument for States to evaluate the potential impacts from their policy decisions;
- Performed quantitative project level modelling of policy options and evaluate specific case studies; and
- Developed a final report of guidance material.
In a separate presentation, Aritenang said Indonesia – a developing country that intends to join the pilot and voluntary initial phases of CORSIA starting in 2021 – considered ICAO climate goals could only be achieved through large-scale deployment of SAFs. However, to achieve a 20% emissions reduction from their use would require around 70 new biorefineries to be built every year from now to 2050, he said, quoting analysis developed by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology for CAEP assessment work. To achieve a substantial market penetration of SAF use by 2050, an annual capital investment similar to road transportation biofuels, which were developed under strong policy schemes, would be needed.
“As current global biofuels growth is fully driven by policies focused on road transport, without similar strong policy drivers for aviation, the ICAO goals would be unachievable,” he said, and suggested ICAO should undertake a stronger effort to promote and recommend policy action to States, as it had done with CORSIA.
He said as far as Indonesia was concerned, if sustainability criteria was made too stringent and there was uncertainty over calculating life-cycle emission values then this would discourage jet biofuel production. He was also concerned that CORSIA could actually be in competition with the deployment of SAFs. If the market price of emission units was very low, airlines would likely choose carbon offsetting over using SAFs. A possible solution would be to limit the percentage of emissions that could be offset under CORSIA, he suggested.
CORSIA had been a successful global policy driven by ICAO and he recommended the next step should be a similar effort to promote the use of green energy in aviation by establishing aspirational supply goals for States.
Pedro Scorza of Brazilian airline GOL, said his country would need to produce around 678,000 tonnes of SAF by 2030 to avoid emissions of close to 1.5 million tonnes of CO2e if carbon-neutral growth was to be met from Brazilian airlines flying on international routes under the CORSIA scope. However, he said, a more desirable scenario for the country was to be producing 4.6 million tonnes of SAFs by 2030 to offset the growth in emissions from all jet fuel use in Brazil. SAF production in Brazil also had the added benefits of potentially creating 60,000 jobs across the value chain and avoiding the huge cost of importing fossil kerosene that amounted to over $500 million in 2015, having peaked at $1.6 billion in 2013.
To achieve the desired 2030 scenario, Scorza reported, work had begun in the country to establish a set of policies and action plans that included production regulations, quality and sustainability certification, financial incentives, funding packages, R&D, biomass value chain integration, a national jet biofuel Act and partnership between airports, airlines and jet fuel suppliers.
Dr Lourdes Maurice of the FAA said in the United States government efforts had helped with the certification of new fuels and the public-private partnership through the Commercial Aviation Alternative Fuels Initiative (CAAFI) had facilitated a 15-fold increase in alternative jet fuel use in the US. However, she said, policies for SAF deployment would need to be specific for each State or region and ICAO could play a key role in coordinating policies to allow for consideration of unique circumstances. With experts from States, industry and civil society on CAEP’s Alternative Fuels Task Force and holding seminars and conferences on the subject, ICAO was an excellent forum for coordination, she said. Facilitating technical and information exchanges among Member States would help develop synergies and solutions, she added.
ICAO is involved in a €6.5 million ($7m) assistance project with the European Union that includes a study in the Dominican Republic to determine the feasibility of producing aviation alternative fuels in the country. The objectives of the study were to define opportunities for a potential value chain, as well as the potential capacity for feedstocks and biojet production, cost and demand considerations, local environmental impact and also ascertain policies, challenges and alternatives.
The study found, reported Eduardo Caldera-Petit, the project’s coordinator, that unlike in other countries where renewable jet fuel projects were in progress, there was little or no prospect for using feedstocks sourced from vegetable oils and fats, municipal or industrial wastes, or from agricultural residues. However, it discovered the country has a significant potential from locally grown sugarcane that could be used to produce Synthesized Iso-Paraffinic (SIP) or Alcohol-to-Jet (ATJ) fuels.
As a result of the study, a roadmap strategy has been implemented starting from 2017 that involves government, industry, airlines and airports.
“Technical assistance can act as a catalyst to trigger initiatives at the State level,” said Caldera-Petit. “This shows the important role ICAO can play.”
From a developed world perspective, European Commission transport adviser Peter Vis said EU biofuel policy was based on a blending obligation and had primarily focused on road transport. The current policy up to 2020 was a 10% target for the use of renewable energy in transport for each EU State, with a minimum 50% GHG saving from 2017, direct land use change effects taken into account and sustainability criteria following life-cycle analysis. However, he reported, the current biofuel share across the 28 EU States was less than 6% in 2014 and was forecasted to reach just 7% by 2020, with only four Member States expected to meet the 10% target.
The use of advanced biofuels is projected to rise from 0.5% in 2021 to 3.6% in 2030, with a declining contribution of crop-based biofuels that will be capped at 3.8% in 2030. Vis said aviation and maritime fuels were not in the blending obligation but, to encourage their use, can now be used to comply with the obligation with a 1.2 multiplier.
Using regional blending mandates can lead to higher fuel prices and causes competitive distortion, and a system whereby producers can opt in, such as in the US and the Netherlands, was preferable, said Leigh Hudson of the International Airlines Group (IAG)
Sustainable fuel production is expected to play a major role in meeting UK 2050 emission targets, she said. Under a UK aviation industry trajectory, up to 12 production plants are expected to be operational by 2030, supplying around 700,000 tonnes per year of SAF. This is expected to more than double to 1.5 million tonnes a year by 2040 and rapidly growing to 4.5 million tonnes by 2050. She added that in order to achieve a 24% reduction in CO2 emissions in 2050, the rate of production would require an annual growth of 14-18% after 2030 – slightly lower than seen in road transport fuels. Hudson estimated the global potential for the production of SAFs by 2030 was in the region of 13 million tonnes.
Carlos Calvo Ambel from the International Coalition for Sustainable Aviation (ICSA), which represents NGOs at ICAO, questioned whether it was fair to provide aviation alternative fuels with government incentives and provide a level playing field with road transport. Aviation fuel largely enjoyed a tax-free status, which didn’t apply to road transport, and only 5% of the world’s population had ever flown. He said biofuels could not solve aviation’s climate problem and faced sustainability and large-scale availability challenges.
The seminar heard from a number of biofuel producers and airlines engaged in commercial-scale SAF production projects. Bruno Miller of municipal solid waste (MSW) to jet fuel company Fulcrum said construction would start shortly on the company’s Sierra BioFuels Plant in Nevada, with operations beginning in 2019 that are expected to produce over 11 million gallons of renewable fuel annually. Its feedstock processing facility has already been completed and is in start-up operations. Fulcrum has identified a further seven potential projects in the US and has offtake and investment agreements with Cathay Pacific, United Airlines and Air BP that could eventually see production of 300 million gallons of renewable jet fuel annually.
Miller said consistent policy frameworks were required across the world as it was difficult to comply with different requirements in different regions or countries.
United has taken a $30 million investment in Fulcrum and is looking to co-develop up to five facilities and purchase around 90 million gallons of biojet per year. The airline is already involved in an initiative with AltAir in which it can purchase up to 15 million gallons annually, and started flying with AltAir’s fuel from its Los Angeles hub last March.
United’s Angela Foster-Rice said government support and engagement was required for commercial scale-up through policies and incentives, as well as by providing resources and funding for research and demonstration plants.
Laurel Harmon of LanzaTech, which is currently going through the ASTM approval process for its ATJ Lanzanol fuel, said that where incentives exist, a level playing field should be ensured for current, emerging and yet-to-be-invented technologies.
Robert Wood of Virgin Australia said the development of the aviation biofuels market was not happening nearly fast enough due to scale-up technology challenges, embedded fossil fuel subsidies, government policies and the significant capital requirements.
In partnership with Air New Zealand, the airline launched a ‘request for information’ in March 2016 from parties to produce 200 million litres of fuel in Australia or New Zealand for 10 years from 2020. Wood reported there had been a strong international as well as regional interest from governments and industry stakeholders, and the partners were currently in commercial negotiations with short-listed respondents.
The seminar concluded with a high-level roundtable session involving ICAO State representatives who discussed the outcomes from the seminar that could be taken forward to the Mexico City conference, which will take place October 11-13.
Slide presentations are available for download from the ICAO website, plus an animated graphic highlighting key statistics that were presented during the seminar.
European Parliament votes for reforms to the EU ETS from 2020 that would tighten aviation emissions cap
Wed 15 Feb 2017 – The European Parliament has voted to increase the ambition of the EU Emissions Trading System (EU ETS) for the next phase of the scheme starting in 2021, which includes tightening the emissions cap of the aviation sector. The sector should expect to receive 10% fewer allowances than its 2014-2016 average, say MEPs. Trilogue negotiations on the overall EU ETS reform package will now take place with the EU Council, which represents Member States, and the European Commission before a final decision is taken. Green lobby group Transport & Environment (T&E) welcomed the decision by MEPs as evidence that aircraft emissions will in future be treated on a par with other industries covered by the EU ETS. European airlines made clear their opposition last week to the sector’s continued inclusion in the EU scheme once the ICAO global CORSIA carbon offsetting scheme starts in 2021 (see article).
The Parliament voted 379-263 in favour of the draft measures proposed by its environment committee (ENVI), demonstrating significant opposition from many MEPs who either felt the package of reforms was not consistent with EU pledges made under the Paris Agreement or that it went too far in damaging European industry competitiveness. The EU ETS is the flagship of EU climate policy which is aiming for an overall reduction of greenhouse gas emissions of at least 40% by the end of the scheme’s Phase IV in 2030 compared with 1990 levels.
Aviation has been treated far more leniently under the EU ETS than the other sectors and in the face of continued growing emissions, MEPs have argued this is no longer sustainable and so must share the burden of meeting the EU reduction target.
Under the Parliament’s proposals, the total quantity of allocated allowances in 2021 would be 10% lower than the average allocation for the period from 1 January 2014 to 31 December 2016, and then decrease annually at the same rate of 2.2% – the so-called linear reduction factor – as that of the total cap for the EU ETS so as to bring the cap for the aviation sector more in line with the other sectors by 2030. Since its inclusion in 2012, no such annual reduction factor has been applied to aviation.
Proposed wording in the amended Directive also reads: “For aviation activities to and from aerodromes located in countries outside the EEA [European Economic Area], the quantity of allowances to be allocated from 2021 onwards may be adjusted taking into account the future of the global market-based mechanism agreed by ICAO at its 39th Assembly. By 2019, the [European] Commission shall present a legislative proposal to the European Parliament and the Council following the 40th Assembly of ICAO.”
Under current rules, 15% of allowances are auctioned but MEPs have agreed that the level should be raised to 50% from 1 January 2021.
The existing Directive says that it is for Member States to determine the use to be made of revenues generated from the auctioning of allowances, although such revenues should be used to tackle climate change in the EU and third countries. MEPs have agreed an amendment whereby all revenues shall be used to tackle climate change, including funding R&D to reduce emissions in aeronautics and air transport. The Parliament tried before to have similar wording inserted into the original Directive but failed due some States’ (notably the UK) refusal to ring-fence revenues.
Another amendment requires Member States to include in their annual report to the Commission on the application of the Directive a list of aircraft operators subject to the requirements of the scheme that have not opened a registry account. “While compliance by operators is generally high, there are a number of cases of non-compliance which have yet to be resolved. Publishing a list of non-compliant operators would expedite enforcement,” says the report submitted by the ENVI committee.
Additional text to the Directive has also been proposed to reflect the Paris Agreement outcome. It reads: “In accordance with the Agreement, all sectors of the economy have to contribute to the reduction of CO2 emissions. Targets and measures agreed at the international level, such as in the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and the International Maritime Organization (IMO), are welcomed if they achieve adequate emissions reductions.”
Shipping has so far escaped being included in the EU ETS but with the sector failing to substantially progress on measures to reduce international CO2 emissions, the Parliament is proposing emissions in EU ports and during voyages to and from them should be accounted for. MEPs wish to see ship owners buy EU ETS allowances from 2023 onwards or pay an equivalent amount into a ‘maritime climate fund’ set up to compensate for maritime emissions, improve energy efficiency, facilitate investment in innovative technologies and reduce CO2 emissions from the sector. This would only apply if IMO does not agree global action by 2023.
“If ICAO and IMO fail to deliver strong global market mechanisms to tackle emissions, the shipping and aviation sectors will be forced to comply with the EU ETS,” commented carbon risk management firm Redshaw Advisors, which predicts a significant upward revision to the price of EU allowances for the end of Phase III and beyond should the Parliament’s proposals be adopted by the Council.
Brussels-based T&E said the MEPs proposed reforms was a strong response to the recent proposal by the European Commission (see article) that called for flights that enter or exit Europe to be excluded from the EU ETS indefinitely. As a result of the Commission’s proposal, which is largely intended to address aviation’s inclusion in the EU ETS for the remainder of Phase III (up until 2020), T&E says a new legislative process has now begun that must go through the Parliament’s committees and plenary again, and then into trilogue negotiations.
“Parliament has sent a clear signal that stronger measures are needed to rein in aircraft emissions,” said T&E’s Bill Hemmings. “MEPs are standing by the basic principle that all sectors must make a fair contribution to tackling climate change. Their proposal should be the basis for discussions with EU governments and the Commission on aviation’s continued role in the ETS.”
The International Emissions Trading Association (IETA), which represents carbon market businesses, welcomed the EU ETS reform package adopted by MEPs in today’s plenary session in Strasbourg and urged a speedy agreement between the EU institutions so that a clear policy signal was delivered to the carbon market.
“If the EU ETS isn’t strengthened, Europe risks a proliferation of unilateral national measures that can add inefficiency and increase costs,” warned Julia Michalak, IETA’s EU Policy Director.
European Parliament – News release on EU ETS reforms vote , European Parliament – Amendments proposed to EU ETS Directive , European Parliament – Debate by plenary (from 18:56 to 20:18)
European airlines seek speedy EU agreement and clarity on the future of EU ETS legislation
Fri 10 Feb 2017 – European airline leaders welcomed last week’s proposal from the European Commission to continue with the ‘stop the clock’ scope of the EU Emissions Trading System (EU ETS) until 2020 and urged EU legislators to apply the required new regulations as soon as possible. Speaking at the inaugural Airlines for Europe (A4E) Aviation Summit in Brussels on Wednesday, Lufthansa CEO Carsten Spohr said A4E members expected the ICAO CORSIA carbon offsetting scheme to replace the EU ETS from 2021 and called for a smooth transition between the two. However, German Green MEP Michael Cramer said during a panel session at the conference that it was likely the European Parliament would vote to continue with the EU ETS alongside CORSIA, raising the prospect of European airlines having to comply with two carbon schemes. Meanwhile, the Pope has described the buying of carbon offsets to compensate for air travel as hypocritical.
Having completed its first year, A4E now has 14 members that include Europe’s biggest legacy and low-cost carriers: Lufthansa, Air France-KLM, easyJet, Ryanair and airline group IAG. Two other European airline associations, AEA and ELFAA, have since fallen by the wayside, leaving A4E as a formidable lobbying force on policy issues that the major airline rivals can agree on, such as airline taxes, airport charges and ATC strikes. The environment is another area of consensus that A4E says it will focus efforts.
“When you get people round the table where there are issues of common interest like the environment, it’s amazing what can be done,” said Willie Walsh, CEO of International Airlines Group (IAG), which operates British Airways, Iberia and Aer Lingus.
Added Carolyn McCall, CEO of easyJet: “The environment is an issue we airlines don’t talk enough about. We are all taking on new aircraft and with new planes like the Airbus A320neo and the Boeing equivalent, we are going to save around 14% on fuel and over 50% on noise. That’s huge. There’s a very big drive to replace older planes. It’s very important to the image of the industry.”
With regard to the EU ETS, A4E Managing Director Thomas Reynaert said: “The European Commission has taken fully on board our suggestions so we are very happy with their proposal. We will be watching to see how the implementation of the ICAO scheme will work from 2021, but this is a good first step in the process.”
Lufthansa’s Carsten Spohr told journalists at a pre-Summit press conference how difficult it had been to get an agreement on a global market-based measure for aviation. “It was a great achievement by ICAO and IATA to have this outcome,” he said. “This has paved the way for a fresh look at the EU system from 2017 and beyond.
“It is important for EU legislators to ensure the competitiveness of European carriers and avoid any adverse financial implications. We urgently need clarity on the requirement for 2017 emissions and beyond.
“We also call on the European Council and the Parliament to conclude the necessary legislative process well ahead of the reporting deadline in spring 2018. The expectations of A4E are that CORSIA will replace the ETS as of 2021. European operators cannot, and shall not, be burdened and regulated twice.
“We want to encourage more countries to join the first phase of CORSIA in order to exceed the 80% coverage of global aviation so far volunteered. The global scheme will complement our joint industry efforts to develop cleaner aircraft, switch to low-carbon fuels and to operate aircraft more fuel and noise efficiently. When the industry is healthy, it is able to invest and contribute towards a greener planet, way beyond what legislators force us to do.”
One such legislator, Michael Cramer MEP, said the agreement reached at ICAO was not to reduce emissions but merely to halt an increase.
“The agreement is a small step but nevertheless a step in the right direction,” he told Summit delegates. “However, we are not clear about the next steps at ICAO and more pressure is still needed, therefore continuing with ‘stop the clock’ is still required. Aviation must participate in the reduction, not just stopping the increase, of emissions.”
When faced with international opposition in 2012 to the inclusion of emissions from all flights to and from Europe under the full scope of the EU ETS Directive, he said the EU had not been strong enough. “The clock was stopped because there was a threat, which I don’t believe was a real one, and so the EU was weak.”
He welcomed the fuel efficiency progress being achieved by the aviation industry that had resulted in a 1.5% per year improvement but passenger numbers were increasing by 5%. “That is a problem and therefore we must do more.”
Cramer said other industries were having to make reductions and it had to be fair that all sectors contributed. Asked whether he expected the Parliament to vote for ‘stop the clock’ to continue after 2020, he responded: “Of course.”
Co-panellist Finnair CEO Pekka Vauramo, responded that having two schemes in operation would penalise European airlines. “It would be a pity if it happens,” he said. “It would be very difficult for us to compete.”
Cramer said airlines had agreed to the EU ETS in the beginning as an alternative to taxes on kerosene and tickets. “European airlines have escaped having to pay billions of euros in taxes – this is absolutely unfair,” he said. “The railways, which are a more environmentally-friendly form of transport, have to pay more under the EU ETS than airlines.
“We have a situation in Germany where there are 3,000 flights per year between Stuttgart and Frankfurt although the train only takes one-and-a-half hours. How is this possible? It’s because airlines get millions in subsidies.”
He added that many international airports in Germany had financial deficits that were being subsidised by the taxpayer. “Sometimes there is a justification for subsidies, such as links to outlying islands,” he said, “but they must be for the right reason.”
By contrast, one of A4E’s main campaign strategies is to rid the sector of what it sees as unreasonable taxes imposed by a number of EU countries, arguing that removing such taxes – as proven in some countries that had done so, it contends – would boost economic growth, tourism and job creation. European airline passengers had paid €5.6 billion ($5.9bn) in taxes to a number of EU States last year, reported IAG’s Walsh. “We believe the European Commission could, and should, intervene on behalf of European consumers,” he said.
“The focus must be on concrete and measurable actions that support European airlines and their customers by providing more flights and lower fares,” says the A4E website. “By removing aviation taxes, governments would end up net beneficiaries due to the increased take from VAT and other taxes that would go a long way to covering the loss of aviation tax revenue.”
Meanwhile, at the Vatican, Pope Francis has told an audience of 1,000 social economy entrepreneurs from around the world that paying compensation for air travel carbon emissions was hypocrisy. “Planes pollute the atmosphere but with a fraction of the ticket price, trees are planted to compensate for the damage inflicted,” German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung reported. “If this logic was to be applied, one day it would get to a point when armament companies set up hospitals for those children who fell victim to their bombs.”
Swedish regional airline BRA undertakes first biofuel flight of a turboprop ATR 72-600
Tue 7 Feb 2017 – Swedish carrier BRA, formerly Braathens Regional, has carried out a commercial flight using a blended biofuel sourced from used cooking oil, marking a first for both the airline and turboprop aircraft manufacturer ATR. The ATR 72-600 flew from Stockholm’s city airport Bromma to Umeå in northern Sweden, a flight distance of around 500 kilometres. With Swedish forests covering over half the country, there are several national research and development projects currently underway to produce sustainable biofuels from forestry residues in the near future. BRA said the flight was an initiative to show its commitment to the environment, while ATR pointed to the environmental performance of the ATR 72-600 and its lowest fuel consumption per seat in its aircraft category.
The fuel for the BRA flight was supplied by Air BP and was sourced and blended 45/55 with conventional fuel in California. The airline and ATR expect further biofuel flights once locally-sourced biofuels become available. They estimate that with Swedish forests growing at a rate of 120 million cubic metres per year, making domestic air traffic in Sweden completely fossil-free would require less than 2% of the total annual forest growth.
The Toulouse-based aircraft manufacturer, which equips the fleets of some 200 airlines in nearly 100 countries with below-90-seat regional aircraft, said it is working to encourage the use of alternative fuels and is willing to support customers and local governments in developing a full business plan, from fuel selection to routing, certification and availability.
“Today’s challenge is to get a large-scale production of biofuels at affordable costs while avoiding a negative impact on the environment,” said ATR CEO Christian Scherer. “Swedish Airlines like BRA can take advantage of the massive expansion of its forests, along with the operation of fuel-efficient turboprops, to reach the ambitious goal of halving their CO2 emissions by 2025.”
Responded BRA CEO Christian Clemens: “The ATR 72-600, especially if powered by biofuel, is the optimal transportation on many of our routes and features the highest standards of environmental care.”