GREENAIR NEWSLETTER 4 SEPTEMBER 2019
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ICAO advisory body to evaluate 14 programmes for eligibility under CORSIA carbon offset scheme
Tue 3 Sept 2019 – Fourteen carbon offset programmes have applied to ICAO for their units to be made available to airlines under the UN agency’s CORSIA scheme for international aviation. A public comment period finishes on September 5 and ICAO’s Technical Advisory Body (TAB) will then evaluate whether the submissions comply with the CORSIA emissions unit criteria before making recommendations to the governing ICAO Council for its consideration in March 2020. Unsuccessful applicants and new programmes are invited to apply again during a next round that is expected to begin around the same time. The applications range from the UN’s Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) to forestry programmes administered by the World Bank and Poland’s State Forests. The 19-member TAB has chosen representatives from the US and Singapore as Chairperson and Vice-Chairperson respectively.
They are Molly Peters-Stanley, a negotiator at the US State Department, who has served on ICAO’s CAEP Global Market-based Measures Technical Task Force, and was previously at the Washington DC-based Forest Trends Association. Benedict Chia is Director for Strategic Issues in Singapore’s National Climate Change Secretariat, where he oversees economic research and low carbon technology development.
The 14 programme applicants are:
American Carbon Registry
British Columbia Offset Program
China GHG Voluntary Emission Reduction Program
Clean Development Mechanism
Climate Action Reserve
Forest Carbon Partnership Facility
Global Carbon Trust
Thailand Greenhouse Gas Management Organization
The State Forests of the Republic of Poland
VCS Program (managed by Verra)
Environmental and energy markets specialist AitherCO2 said the main differentiation among the programmes is the relationship to the CDM, as a number of programmes use its methodologies, project cycle guidelines or verification/monitoring procedures. Other newer and regional aggregators of emission reduction units include the Thailand, British Columbia and Poland programmes. LOT Polish Airlines has already indicated it is supporting the State Forests programme.
Standards that are deemed not to meet the eligibility criteria can amend or elaborate their rules accordingly and apply again in the following round.
“We take this to mean that offset eligibility determination will be an iterative process, with suppliers of offsets ‘tweaking’ their methods to conform to the eligibility criteria, rather than a final rulemaking with across-the-board bans on specific offset types or vintages,” said AitherCO2 researchers.
“We expect the process to speed up considerably if the upcoming COP in Chile produces clear rules on the future of the CDM and on the extent to which the results of climate change mitigation action can be internationally tradable.”
Carbon market analyst Refinitiv notes that several applicants chose to specify which of the units they deal with are submitted for CORSIA eligibility. Some offset standards involve a variety of different offset types and methodologies, it says, but are only asking for a portion of those to be approved for use by airlines under CORSIA. This is the case for many of the applicants involving avoided deforestation projects, it adds, with most of the applicants seeking CORSIA eligibility for offset units coming from land use projects.
Although the ICAO Council has the final word on offset eligibility, observers doubt that any standard or project type rejected by the TAB will be approved by the Council.
In a working paper (A40-WP/139) submitted for consideration at the upcoming ICAO 40th Assembly starting later this month, IATA says it is fundamental that the Council remains the sole authority to decide which emissions units can be used for CORSIA and that airlines can use any and all of those approved. This is critical to ensure a level playing field among all aeroplane operators, it contends.
“If operators were allowed to use different units for compliance depending on which authority they report to, this would inevitably result in significant market distortions,” says the paper. “That situation could arise if an ICAO Member State were to allow units which are not CORSIA Eligible Emissions Units but also if a State were to impose restrictions on the use of certain CORSIA Eligible Emissions Units.”
IATA also calls for robust rules to avoid the double-claiming of emissions units, where a country that hosts emissions units programmes count the reductions associated with units used for CORSIA towards its own mitigation pledges.
To ensure a sufficient volume of eligible emissions units are available to operators for CORSIA compliance and that project developers have the necessary lead times, IATA urges ICAO to reach a decision on eligible units in 2020 at the very latest.
Submission of planning application to develop UK’s first waste to jet fuel plant a major milestone, says BA
Thu 29 Aug 2019 – British Airways’ waste to jet fuel project with Velocys has moved a step forward with the submission of a planning application to develop a site on the north-east coast of England for sustainable jet fuel production. The airline said the application was a major milestone for the project, a first of its kind in Europe. Subject to planning approval and successful funding, construction of the Immingham plant is due to begin in 2021 and to start producing commercial volumes of sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) in 2024. When fully operational, the plant is expected to convert over 500,000 tonnes each year of non-recyclable everyday household and commercial waste destined for landfill or incineration into producing over 60 million litres of fuel, of which 40 million litres is intended to be jet fuel. The carrier is now calling for the setting up of a dedicated cross-government body to provide policy support to accelerate UK SAF development.
The planning application has been submitted by Altalto Immingham Limited, a subsidiary set up by Velocys and an investment collaboration with British Airways and Shell. The location of the vacant 80-acre (32ha) site on the Humber estuary is in an industrial area renowned for fuels production. The development is anticipated to bring millions of pounds of investment to the area, hundreds of jobs during construction and around 130 permanent jobs when completed, say the partners.
Velocys is leading the project and assembling the technology components into an integrated design. It is also supplying the Fischer-Tropsch technology that turns synthesis gas into the hydrocarbons required to create the sustainable fuels, which the company has been developing over the past 15 years. The company says the technology has already been successfully demonstrated at a US demonstration plant in Oklahoma. In addition to Immingham, Velocys is currently developing a project in Natchez, Mississippi, to convert woody biomass from forest residues into road transportation diesel fuel.
“We have a solution to decarbonise aviation fuel by converting an unwanted feedstock – household and commercial waste – to create a highly valuable product: sustainable transport fuels,” said Velocys CEO Henrik Wareborn. “This will cut greenhouse gas emissions from aviation, as well as improving air quality and helping to tackle our waste problem. This is a vital step to the ultimate goal of living in a net zero carbon world by the middle of the century.”
The sustainable jet fuel produced by Altalto is expected to reduce net greenhouse gas emissions by 70% compared to conventional fossil fuel and improve air quality with up to a 90% reduction in soot from aircraft engine exhausts and almost 100% reduction in sulphur oxides.
Shell is intending to buy both jet fuel and road fuel from Altalto, which will then be blended and sold to its customers. Through its New Energies business, Shell will also be providing technical expertise based on its long experience of gasification and Fischer-Tropsch.
“Sustainable fuels can be a game changer for aviation that will help power our aircraft for years to come,” said British Airways’ CEO Alex Cruz. “This development is an important step in the reduction of our carbon emissions and meeting industry targets. It also brings the UK another step closer to becoming a global leader in sustainable aviation fuels.”
As part of its centenary celebrations, British Airways ran a competition earlier this year, ‘BA2119: Future of Fuels’, in collaboration with Cranfield University to challenge UK academics to develop a sustainable alternative fuel that could power a commercial aircraft on a long-haul flight, carrying up to 300 passengers with zero net emissions.
The airline’s parent company IAG, which also includes Iberia, Aer Lingus and Vueling, has committed to spending $400 million on alternative fuel development over the next 20 years, including investments and purchasing commitments. It said it is currently working on a number of SAF development projects.
In June 2018, the Velocys/BA/Shell project received a development grant of £434,000 ($580,000) from the UK Department of Transport under the first stage of its ‘Future Fuels for Flight and Freight Competition’. Along with a proposed waste gases to SAF project led by LanzaTech in collaboration with Virgin Atlantic, the Altalto project has been shortlisted for the second stage. An announcement on the awarding of second-stage grants is expected shortly.
Following industry pressure, UK government policy on sustainable aviation fuels changed in April 2018 with a decision to incentivise their use under its flagship programme to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from transport, the Renewable Transport Fuel Obligation.
British Airways is now urging the government to set up a body to help accelerate SAF development. “We strongly welcomed the inclusion of sustainable aviation fuels into the renewable transport fuels policy framework and call on the government to continue to provide support given the significant near-term opportunities offered by these fuels,” said Jonathon Counsell, Head of Sustainability at IAG.
“Specifically, we strongly believe a dedicated Office for Sustainable Aviation Fuels will provide the essential cross-government coordination necessary to progress the development and commercial deployment of SAF and we would welcome government support in setting this up at the earliest opportunity.”
California start-up ZeroAvia plans hydrogen-fuelled, zero-emissions commercial flights by 2022
Tue 27 Aug 2019 – Silicon Valley start-up ZeroAvia claims its hydrogen-fuelled electric powertrain could be ready for zero-emission, 500-mile commercial regional flights capable of carrying 10 to 20 passengers by the early part of the next decade. The company, founded by cleantech entrepreneur and pilot Val Miftakhov, has already started flight testing its powertrain prototype on a Piper M-Class airframe following experimental R&D certification by the FAA earlier this year. At a 2-ton take-off weight and six seats in a business class arrangement, ZeroAvia says it is currently the world’s largest zero-emission aircraft flying without any fossil fuel support. From 2022, the company plans to lease the hydrogen fuel cell drivetrain through a power-by-the-hour arrangement to commercial operators purchasing new aircraft supplied by established manufacturers.
“With land transport rapidly decarbonising, fast-growing air transport is quickly becoming the leading emission source, so we must find ways to make aviation more sustainable,” said Miftakhov.
Making up nearly half of commercial flights worldwide, ZeroAvia is initially targeting 500-mile flights to serve the short-haul and commuter air travel markets.
“Using hydrogen produced from local renewable energy is the most practical way to enable zero-emission aircraft of commercially meaningful size on traditional 300 to 500-mile regional missions,” believes Miftakhov.
He said it would also be more economical than conventional turbine engines – or even battery-based systems – on a total cost basis. “We calculate the total costs of operating a ZeroAvia aircraft to be close to half of what it costs to fly a conventional turbine aircraft, due to lower fuel input costs, higher powertrain efficiency and reduced maintenance costs.”
The company said smaller zero-emission aircraft powered by its powertrains will be able to achieve similar per-seat economics as today’s large regional jets, allowing for economical use of smaller local airports for point-to-point travel. In addition to passenger transport, the powertrain is expected to have applications across other aircraft types, including manned and unmanned fixed-wing, rotorcraft and “everywhere in between”.
Formerly founder and CEO of smart grid electric vehicle charging company eMotorWerks, Miftakhov has formed a team from founding members of eMotorWerks and experts from Tesla, BMW, NVIDIA, Zee Aero, Air Liquide and SystemIQ.
An advisory and investment firm, SystemIQ was set up in 2016 “to drive the implementation of the Paris Agreement and the UN Sustainable Development Goals by transforming markets and business models in land use, materials and energy.” It has been supporting ZeroAvia for over a year and recently completed a financial investment to accelerate R&D and European expansion.
“ZeroAvia’s zero-emission drivetrain is the most promising, cost-effective alternative to incumbent fossil-based technologies today,” said Jeremy Oppenheim, founding partner at SystemIQ. “We are proud to be supporting ZeroAvia on their time-critical mission to decarbonize the aviation sector.”
Added SystemIQ’s Julian Renz: “The aviation and hydrogen industries have been waiting for their ‘Tesla moment’. When we met with Val, we thought: ‘This is it’. Our expertise and financial resources helped the innovation materialise during the difficult early stages.”
Zero-emission transportation is progressing rapidly to an inflection point, believes Miftakhov. “The technology exists today to decarbonise commercial aviation in a meaningful way and at ZeroAvia, we intend to lead that charge. With governments around the world calling for a shift towards clean transportation and predictions that air travel frequency will increase in the future, it is imperative for us as an industry to ensure sustainable aviation is cleared for take-off.”
NATS research shows growing majority of UK public concerned over environmental impact of aviation but curbs on flying resisted
Fri 23 Aug 2019 – Research carried out on behalf of the UK’s air traffic service provider NATS shows growing concern by the flying public over aviation’s impact on the environment. Its annual study of attitudes to flying, carried out by IPSOS MORI, showed 60% of those interviewed wanted to see reducing emissions made the top priority for the aviation industry, a rise of eight percentage points on the previous year. Although still a minority, 38% – a rise from 30% in 2018 – were willing to pay some form of a climate change levy on the price of a plane ticket. Meanwhile, NATS has revealed it saved airlines 113,500 tonnes of aircraft CO2 emissions last year, equating to £18.4 million ($22.4m) in fuel costs, and bringing total emissions reductions achieved since 2006 to 8.4 million tonnes. Its latest annual report, however, NATS admits it will fall short of a 2008 commitment to reduce CO2 emissions by an average of 10% per flight by 2020.
Despite the concerns over the negative environmental impact, the number of respondents to the survey who felt flying should be discouraged fell from 47% to 40%. While there is much public debate over UK airport expansion, only 16% were against it, with support for expansion growing from 48% in 2018 to 57% this year. A sizeable minority (45%) of respondents said they did not consider the environmental impact of their flights, with just 31% saying they did.
Around a 1,000 people throughout the UK were interviewed for the survey as part of NATS’ annual Aviation Index of public opinion, with 60% saying they had flown by a commercial airline within the previous 12 months and 4% never having flown. The highest proportion of those who had flown within the previous 12 months came from the 18-34 age group.
“What these results show us is that people are concerned about the real impact aviation has on our environment, but that flying and global connectivity is also totally intrinsic to our way of life and will be even more so after Brexit,” commented Ian Jopson, Head of Environment at NATS, which is expecting this summer to be the busiest on record for flights in the UK.
“What’s needed is a way to radically improve the efficiency of every flight, part of which is down to more efficient aircraft, but we can also make a big contribution by transforming how our airspace is structured and managed.”
NATS is enabling flights to operate continuous descents and direct routes that burn less fuel but Jopson said a more radical wholesale redesign was needed of the UK’s flight paths given many air routes had been designed 50 years ago.
Alongside many of the UK’s major airports, NATS said it would be bringing forward proposals at the end of next year on how to modernise UK airspace, which would likely include fuel-saving measures to keep aircraft higher for longer and reducing low-level stack holding at airports.
In its corporate responsibility report for 2018-19 just published, NATS says it delivered 18 airspace initiatives during the year to help reduce aircraft CO2 emissions. These included air traffic management efficiency improvements and tools for reduced holding, working with airlines for improved flight planning, airspace changes and the introduction of electronic flight strips in London Terminal Control, said by NATS to be one of the most complex areas of airspace in the world.
Launched in 2008, NATS set a target to reduce UK aviation’s CO2 emissions by an average of 10% per flight by 2020. By 2015 it achieved an interim milestone of 4% per flight but having reached 6.9% in 2018-19, NATS has conceded the 10% by goal will be missed. This is partly due, it says in its CSR report, “to increased concerns about the negative environmental and social impact from aircraft noise and the plan was delayed pending further evaluation of how it could be delivered with a balanced approach to noise impacts. Alternative options were considered, with priority given to small-scale initiatives that did not affect noise, leaving more complex opportunities to feed into our 2020-2025 plan.”
NATS is also subject to an annual target set by the UK Civil Aviation Authority that measures airspace efficiency. The metric, known as the three-dimensional inefficiency score, or 3Di, is designed to become more challenging each year. However, NATS reports it remained within the target range in 2018 and is on track to do the same in 2019.
“As an island nation, aviation is key to our role in the global marketplace and isn’t likely to be replaced in the foreseeable future,” said Jopson. “Our industry therefore has to find a way to reduce our impact on the environment and we’re very proud of the progress we’ve made, alongside our other responsible business initiatives, but we know much more needs to be done.”
Finnair’s passenger biofuel purchase initiative takes off with first SAF flights from San Francisco
Mon 19 Aug 2019 – Following its ‘Push for change’ initiative launched earlier this year, Finnair has used sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) on two flights from San Francisco to Helsinki. The initiative encourages passengers to either offset the carbon emissions from their flights or mitigate their carbon footprint through paying to contribute towards the cost of Finnair buying more expensive biofuel. The airline carried out a consumer survey a year ago that found travellers were prepared to pay more to lower the environmental impact from their flights as long as the proceeds went directly towards mitigation projects. Finnair, along with SAS and KLM, subsequently signed an agreement with Shell, World Energy and SkyNRG to use SAF produced from Californian-sourced used cooking oil at World Energy’s Paramount refinery in Los Angeles.
“The launch of our ‘Push for change’ initiative was an important step for Finnair in order to provide our customers with the opportunity to conveniently offset or decrease the emissions from their travel,” commented Arja Suominen, SVP Communications & Corporate Responsibility at Finnair.
“We have been pleased with the early phases of the initiative so far and we are now excited to move forward and fly our two first biofuel flights supported entirely by the ‘Push for change’ contributions. We naturally hope that customers will be increasingly willing and interested in using the service in the future as well.”
The two flights used a blended fuel containing 12% SAF, which Finnair says reduced the total CO2 emissions for the flights by around 32 tons.
The Finnair initiative allows passengers to contribute €10, €20 or €65 towards the cost of buying biofuel. Passengers can also opt to support an emissions reduction project in Mozambique by donating €1 for a round trip within Finland, €2 for a round trip within Europe or €6 for an intercontinental round trip.
San Francisco Airport has big ambitions to be a major hub for the supply of SAF and estimates that if a half of the 1 billion gallons of jet fuel currently refuelled annually by airlines at the airport was made up of SAF, CO2 emissions could be reduced by up to 4.8 million tonnes per year. SFO has been working on a study to identify the necessary supply chain and infrastructure required to make this a reality. A change to California’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard to allow the opt-in inclusion of SAF has also stimulated its production (see article).
Global response of aviation industry to climate challenge far too timid and complacent, says EU transport chief
Tue 30 July 2019 – Arguing the ICAO CORSIA global carbon offsetting scheme is a sufficient tool in meeting the industry’s contribution to the climate challenge is not enough anymore, the European Commission’s Director-General for Mobility and Transport, Henrik Holohei, said in a keynote speech at last week’s meeting of the International Aviation Club in Washington DC. In a hard-hitting message, he said societal and political priorities in Europe had evolved and sustainability had become the new number one challenge for aviation, requiring the airline industry to “step up”. Proposals on the taxation of kerosene and passengers were being discussed at the European level, he told the US audience. His comments follow a move by France to impose an ‘eco-tax’ on tickets for all outgoing flights and consideration by Germany on raising its aviation tax to make flying more expensive in order to cut emissions.
Managing the environmental footprint of aviation is arguably the greatest current challenge facing the sector, said Holohei.
“In order to maintain its ‘licence to grow’ – one pessimist referred to its ‘licence to exist’ – emissions have to come down,” he warned. “In Europe, we observe that peoples’ mindset is changing very fast and without the slightest doubt, public demand and societal expectations for cleaner and much more sustainable air transport will grow rapidly in the coming years.
“We already see these significant and disruptive signs that we did not witness just a year or two ago. If industry is not delivering credible responses to show that it can continue to grow while reducing emissions, this pressure will only mount and, sooner than later, regulatory intervention follows. Europe’s sentiment and societal expectations on this are today ahead of other regions but, trust me, it is just a matter of time before this wave spreads to the rest of the world.
“If this challenge is not constructively and jointly met then individual governments will consider unilateral action – because they are under increasing political pressure to do so.
“I have to say that the global response of the industry has so far been very timid and complacent. Far too timid. Arguing that CORSIA is a sufficient tool is not enough anymore. I think the industry has not been able to grasp nor understand the changing societal trends and expectations. It is high time now. This innovative industry just cannot manoeuvre itself into being defensive on this important global and political issue.”
He added that although continued fuel efficiency gains had partially decoupled emissions from expanded air transport services, the sector was one of the few where emissions continued to grow.
“This is not sustainable,” he said. “The airline industry has to step up and not hide its head in the sand. I would also encourage considering all actions that show clear commitment to sustainability and which display the societal responsibility of the sector.”
Holohei acknowledged the industry was making progress on the issue, “but the overall public perception does not recognise this at all.”
He praised airlines like KLM for being “ahead of the curve” over its latest ‘Fly Responsibly’ campaign (see article) and others that had announced becoming plastics-free. There was no “magic formula” to make aviation much more sustainable in the short term, he admitted.
“It is without doubt that a basket of different measures is the best and only way forward. Innovation, new aircraft types, new and more efficient engines, and more efficient use of airspace are just a few examples,” he said, adding the Commission was currently working on proposals to incentivise the use of sustainable aviation fuels (SAF), including blending mandates.
However, he recognised there were challenges related to the infrastructure and accelerated uptake of SAF that required a regulatory and legal framework to incentivise investment in production and innovation.
“I have discussed this idea with a number of key airline CEOs as well as fuel producers and they all agree that this is definitely one additional avenue that needs to be pursued,” he said. “So stay tuned and hear how we intend to take our proposal forward.”
He regretted ICAO had not been able to agree SAF quantitative targets. “A global commitment through ICAO would have been a strong message but I am sure we will eventually get there,” he said. “Europe is ready to show the lead.”
On European taxation of kerosene and passengers, Holohei said direction and action would be decided by the incoming new Commission and “our new political masters”.
Germany’s Environment Minister Svenja Schulze said recently a Europe-wide approach to aviation taxation would be the best way to tackle the sector’s growing emissions but the country would act sooner if necessary.
“I believe air traffic must bear the costs of greenhouse gas emissions and this must be reflected in air fares,” she told the Rheinische Post, adding that flying on certain routes was less costly than travelling by train.
French Transport Minister Elisabeth Borne announced a tax of €1.50 ($1.70) on economy class tickets for domestic and EU flights, rising to €18 ($20) on business class tickets for flights outside the EU. The tax is expected to raise around €180 million ($200m) annually from 2020, with the money raised invested in less-polluting alternative forms of transport such as rail.
The Dutch finance ministry recently held a conference in The Hague to bring government representatives from other EU countries to discuss the issue of aviation taxation and carbon pricing (see article) and possible joint action.
Responding to the growing call for more action on aviation emissions, trade body Airlines for Europe (A4E) said European airlines are expected to pay over €5 billion ($5.6bn) in environmental taxes and payments under the EU Emissions Trading System (EU ETS) in 2019. A4E estimates EU ETS payments this year will reach €590 million ($650m), a 59% increase over 2018. It also points out that more than half the States so far participating in the voluntary phases of the global CORSIA scheme from 2020 are European.
In addition, it said its airline members would be investing €169 billion ($188bn) in environmentally-friendly technologies until 2030, which included the purchase of around 800 fuel-efficient aircraft, and over €1 billion to help fast-track the production of sustainable aviation fuels in Europe through partnerships.
“The claim that airlines are not paying environmental taxes is completely false,” said Michael O’Leary, Chairman of A4E and Ryanair CEO. “This environmental debate has been badly misinformed. Globally, European airlines are the only airlines paying environmental taxes. More aviation taxes are a knee-jerk reaction that will undermine European competitiveness and particularly hurt the integration and free movement of EU citizens, especially for peripheral and island Member States such as, for example, Ireland, Spain, Portugal and the Baltic States.”
Added A4E Managing Director Thomas Reynaert: “The fact is, EU policy-makers have missed an opportunity to reduce aviation emissions by failing to reform the European Sky or by making sustainable fuels sufficiently available for aviation. Rather than introducing new taxes, which do nothing to make flying more sustainable, EU governments should recognise and support airlines’ sustainability initiatives with better research and development opportunities.”
Meanwhile, ICAO has posted a working paper (A40-WP/59) that proposes revisions to the CORSIA resolution (A39-3) passed at its 2016 Assembly in respect of a new resolution to be considered for adoption at September’s 40th Assembly. Paragraph 18 states the Assembly “Determines that the CORSIA is the only global market-based measure applying to CO2 emissions from international aviation so as to avoid a possible patchwork of duplicative State or regional MBMs, thus ensuring that international aviation CO2 emissions should be accounted for only once.”