GREENAIR NEWSLETTER 27 JULY 2020
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US EPA proposes regulation of aircraft CO2 emissions to align with ICAO’s international standard
Fri 24 July 2020 – The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has proposed a CO2 emissions standard for commercial airplanes and large business aircraft that align with the CO2 standard agreed by ICAO in 2017. The proposed standard would apply to new type design airplanes on or after 1 January 2020 and to in-production airplanes on or after 1 January 2028, but not to those already manufactured and currently in use. Typically, three out of four aircraft manufactured in the United States are sold overseas but if EPA were to adopt no standard, or not as stringent as ICAO’s, US aircraft manufacturers could be forced to seek CO2 emissions certification from another country’s authority in order to market their airplanes for international operation. The proposal was welcomed by industry group Airlines for America (A4A), which said adopting the standard would help US airlines meet the sector’s carbon goals but environmental groups said the standard was too weak to drive the fuel efficiency improvements required.
“This standard is the first time the US has ever proposed regulating greenhouse gas emissions from aircraft,” announced EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler, adding the Trump Administration had been the first to propose regulating GHG emissions from aircraft.
There will now be a 60-day public comment period on the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking. Once the final rule with the standard has been promulgated by EPA, the FAA will complete a subsequent rulemaking to enforce the standard and at that point could begin to certify airplanes of US manufacturers. “This process will take some time, and it is critical that EPA completes this part of the process so that the US standards are in place well in advance of 2028, when the ICAO standards go into effect for in-production airplanes,” said EPA.
In-production airplanes are defined as new aircraft with designs that have already been type certificated by the FAA and are already in production, and which will continue to be produced and sold after the effective date of the standards. New type design airplanes are newly developed designs that have not previously been type certificated by the FAA and are not yet being built or flown.
After a lengthy legal battle with environmental groups to act on aircraft emissions, in 2016 EPA found that under the Clean Air Act, concentrations of six GHGs in the atmosphere endangered public health and welfare. It also determined that two of those GHGs, CO2 and nitrous oxide (N2O), emitted from certain classes of engines used in certain aircraft, contributed to that endangering air pollution. In the proposed rulemaking, EPA is using section 231 of the Act to adopt equivalent airplane GHG emission standards domestically, which will cover the same types of airplanes covered by the international aircraft CO2 standard.
The international standard was agreed by the ICAO Council in 2016 and endorsed by ICAO Member States in early 2017.
“EPA’s proposal to adopt ICAO’s fuel efficiency and CO2 certification standard for newly manufactured aircraft is good for our industry, for our country and for the world,” commented A4A VP Environmental Affairs, Nancy Young. “Although the US airlines are already driven to be highly fuel- and carbon-efficient, this stringent new emissions standard will help US airlines make a green industry even greener.”
However, the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) said the proposal as drafted contravened EPA’s responsibilities under the Clean Air Act and would be objecting during the upcoming comments period.
“Airlines need to put climate change at the centre of their recovery from Covid-19, but EPA’s proposed carbon dioxide emissions standard for aircraft is wholly insufficient to put the aviation industry on a trajectory of declining emissions consistent with the goals of the Paris Agreement,” said Annie Petsonk, International Counsel at EDF.
“Congress should move swiftly to set aviation on a science-driven path toward net zero climate impacts, with strong emission reduction targets that address all aircraft pollution. That will do far more to aid the sector economically and protect the climate than EPA’s current proposal.”
According to the US-based International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT), EPA’s proposed standard is too weak to accelerate investments in more fuel-efficient aircraft and engines. Its analysis found that aircraft deliveries in 2019 were already on average 6% more fuel-efficient than required by the standard in 2028 and the average new commercial jet delivered in 2016, when the ICAO standard was finalised, already complied with the 2028 requirements. Moreover, it claims, the most advanced new aircraft delivered in recent years are ahead of the standard by 10-20% on average. ICCT is publishing the analysis in a new report in August.
It recommends EPA should apply its CO2 standard to in-service aircraft rather than just new aircraft as this would create new markets for US manufacturers by promoting the retirement of older, less efficient designs. It also suggests EPA should begin work on a second-phase standard with tougher targets that could inform international standard setting in ICAO.
“The United States will need a more ambitious standard if it is to meet its goal of carbon-neutral growth for its carriers starting this year,” said Sola Zheng, lead author of the study.
UK’s Jet Zero Council gets underway to bring aviation emissions in line with 2050 net-zero target
Thu 23 July 2020 – The first meeting of the UK’s Jet Zero Council was launched yesterday by British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and brought together aviation and aerospace leaders, sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) companies, investors, academics and representatives from the environmental sector. The aim of the Council is to tackle aviation emissions in line with the government’s 2050 net zero goal and an ambition to achieve the first ever zero emission long-haul passenger plane. Last week, a cross-party group of MPs called on the government to support investment in aviation decarbonisation and drive a green recovery, including industry-matched funding for early stage SAF facilities. Meanwhile, SAF businesses have been encouraged to take part in a Covid-19 green recovery competition led by government agency Innovate UK to receive financial support for research and development projects.
“We’ve made great strides towards our net zero target over the last year but it’s more important than ever that we keep up the pace of change to fuel a green, sustainable recovery as we rebuild from the pandemic,” said Johnson on opening the virtual Jet Zero Council meeting.
“The UK now has a huge opportunity to cement its place at the vanguard of green innovation, setting an example worldwide while growing the economy and creating new jobs. That’s why we’re backing cutting edge research to cut costs and carbon across our great British industries, and even paving the way for the first ever zero emission long-haul passenger flight – so that our green ambitions remain sky high as we build back better for both our people and our planet.”
The meeting was co-chaired by Business and Energy Secretary Alok Sharma and Transport Secretary Grant Shapps.
“Climate change is one of the greatest challenges we face today and tackling it will require action from everybody. This is why we’re bringing together government, businesses and investors in a ground-breaking new partnership,” said Shapps. “The Council is a huge step forward in making change – as we push forward with innovative technologies such as sustainable fuels and eventually fully electric planes, we will achieve guilt-free flying and boost sustainability for years to come.”
Members on the Council include British Airways, Virgin Atlantic, easyJet, Loganair and TUI, with airports represented by Heathrow and Manchester Airports Group, which owns Manchester, Stansted and East Midlands airports. Aerospace sector members include Airbus, Rolls-Royce, Meggitt, GKN and electric plane company ZeroAvia. SAF representatives on the Council include Air BP, Shell, Velocys, LanzaTech and the Renewable Energy Association.
A number of Council members are part of the UK cross-industry coalition group Sustainable Aviation, which earlier this year released its Decarbonisation Road-Map that laid out a net-zero emissions pathway.
“The creation of the Council is a major milestone in Britain’s move to decarbonise aviation, and the inclusion of a wide range of expertise from Sustainable Aviation members is particularly encouraging. As our Road-Map set out, the adoption of newer, more efficient aircraft and sustainable aviation fuels can help realise the government’s ambition to deliver jet-zero. Sustainable Aviation and our members are committed to delivering net-zero carbon emissions across UK aviation and aerospace by 2050,” said its Chair, Rolls-Royce’s Adam Morton.
“It is exciting to see that establishing UK production facilities for sustainable aviation fuels is a priority for the Jet Zero Council. We would eagerly welcome government support for rapid commercialisation of this innovative technology to help decarbonise aviation, level up the country with new high value-added green jobs, and fuel a green recovery.”
Also represented at the Council meeting was UK environmental group Aviation Environment Federation (AEF), whose Director, Tim Johnson, said: “It was a positive start, with an appropriate degree of ambition and urgency, a technology-neutral stance that will treat all options equally, and recognition that getting new technology and SAF into the fleet requires a regulatory framework that includes carbon pricing. That’s a good platform to work from.”
Henrik Wareborn, CEO of Velocys, which is planning to build a SAF facility in the north-east of England in partnership with British Airways and Shell, commented: “The first meeting of the Council could not have come at a more important time. As we return to the skies, attention must focus on solutions that can deliver meaningful carbon savings not just by 2050 but within the decade.
“Sustainable aviation fuels will play a critical role in achieving the government’s goal of demonstrating flight across the Atlantic without harming the environment within a generation. In fact, our planned waste-to-jet-fuel facility could be fuelling transatlantic flights in just five years’ time without the need to modify aircraft or engines at all. Velocys has the technology, already demonstrated at commercial scale, which cuts lifecycle carbon emissions by 70%. By incorporating carbon capture and storage technology, emissions could be cut further, enabling the facility and others that could follow to produce carbon negative emissions fuel by the end of the decade.”
The letter from the 35 cross-party MPs to Chancellor Rishi Sunak urges the government to “supercharge a green aviation recovery” by taking three actions:
- Commit £500 million ($620m) in funding, matched by industry, to support the delivery of SAF production facilities in the UK;
- Increase funding for the Aerospace Technology Institute to enable the UK to become a world-leader in developing more efficient engines as well as hybrid and electric aircraft; and
- Provide short-term funding towards enabling UK airspace changes that would cut emissions immediately.
Commented signatory Sir Graham Brady MP, Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Sustainable Aviation: “Decarbonising aviation is going to be a crucial step in meeting our net zero ambitions, but it also offers an opportunity to make Britain a world leader in new technologies. As we emerge from lockdown, support for the aviation industry can drive a sustainable recovery, so that as the Prime Minister says, we can ‘build back greener’. This means building a sustainable aviation fuels industry in the UK, a here-and-now technology that can create jobs and add billions to our economy.”
Innovate UK, part of UK Research and Innovation, is investing up to £55 million to fund single and collaborative research and development projects as part of the Sustainable Innovation Fund competition, with the aim of supporting sectors to rebuild after the effects of Covid-19. All projects have to be led by a UK-registered business and include at least one SME, are carried out in the UK and the results exploited from or in the UK. Proposals can either be from a single business or a collaboration. The competition is round one of a potential three and the first round closes on July 29.
Aerion teams with Carbon Engineering on DAC-sourced synthetic jet fuels for its supersonic business aircraft
Wed 22 July 2020 – Supersonic aircraft company Aerion is teaming with Canadian clean energy company Carbon Engineering (CE) to develop synthetic fuels towards ambitions of making Aerion’s AS2 business jet the world’s first carbon-neutral supersonic commercial aircraft. CE’s direct air capture (DAC) technology captures CO2 directly from the atmosphere and can be converted into drop-in transportation fuels using water and clean electricity. The two partners will jointly assess requirements to power AS2’s non-afterburning Affinity engine, which is being developed and built by GE, with 100% synthetic fuels. They will also explore a potential collaborative project to build an air-to-fuels plant to produce synthetic fuel specifically for AS2 operators. Aerion says it is the first aircraft OEM to commit to carbon-neutral operations. Boom Supersonic last year teamed with Prometheus Fuels on a carbon-neutral fuel for its XB-1 demonstrator supersonic aircraft.
CE’s pilot plant in British Columbia has been removing CO2 from the atmosphere since 2015 and converting it into fuels since 2017. With partner Oxy Low Carbon Ventures, a subsidiary of Occidental, the company is engineering a commercial scale DAC facility capable of capturing one million tons of CO2 per year. Along with synthetic jet fuel developer SAF+ Consortium (see article), CE is one of four finalists in the Canadian green aviation fuels innovation competition ‘The Sky’s the Limit Challenge’.
Whereas SAF+ Consortium is capturing CO2 from an industrial flue stack, CE’s DAC technology captures CO2 from the atmosphere, which can either be permanently stored deep underground or used to produce clean transportation fuels. At large scale, CE claims its DAC technology can capture CO2 from the air for around $100 per ton of CO2 and plants can be placed in locations where there is abundant low-cost, local renewable energy to power the facility.
The DAC process pulls in atmospheric air and then through a series of chemical reactions, extracts the CO2 from it while returning the rest of the air to the environment. This simulates what plants and trees do as they photosynthesise, except DAC technology can do it much faster, with a smaller land footprint, and delivers the CO2 in a pure, compressed form, says CE.
Fuels made from atmospheric CO2 create a circular system of emissions, said Steve Oldham, CEO of Carbon Engineering, which includes Microsoft’s Bill Gates as one of its investors. “Our DAC technology captures yesterday’s emitted CO2 and converts it into fuel. When used in any vehicle, the carbon is returned to the atmosphere as CO2, however, the process then captures it again to make more fuel,” he explained. “So, we continually re-use existing CO2 and little or no new carbon emissions are created. This provides a way to decarbonise sectors of transportation that are difficult to electrify and that require the high energy density of liquid fuels, such as aviation or shipping.”
Currently due to commence flight testing in 2025 and enter into service in 2026, the 12-passenger AS2 is aiming for a cruising speed of Mach 1.4 and a projected range of 8,800 kilometres. Aerion says the aircraft is designed to be “inherently environmentally friendly” as it will be the first supersonic aircraft without an afterburner and with no sonic boom reaching the ground, and with the ability to accept 100% biofuels – as opposed to blends. It also says it is the first OEM to plan for carbon-neutral operations via carbon reduction strategies rather than resorting to carbon offsets.
“At Aerion we take environmental stewardship very seriously and we believe that speed and being kind to our planet do not need to be mutually exclusive,” said Tom Vice, Aerion’s CEO. “As we build the next generation of high-speed transportation networks, we recognise the need to create a broad ecosystem of innovative partnerships to achieve our vision of carbon neutral point-to-point global travel. We seek partners and technology visionaries who share our vision to passionately pursue addressing climate change.”
Another company promising carbon-neutral commercial supersonic flight is Boom, which is developing its Mach 2.2 XB-1 demonstrator aircraft that is slated to start flight testing in 2021 and is the forerunner to Boom’s Overture passenger supersonic aircraft due to fly in the second half of the decade. In June last year, Boom announced a partnership with Prometheus Fuels, which is also using DAC technology to transform CO2 into jet fuel, to supply fuel for the test programme. Last week, Boom announced a roll-out of the XB-1 will take place in October. Boom says it has 30 Overture aircraft on pre-order, including from operators Japan Airlines and Virgin Group.
Prometheus recently raised a funding round of $12.5 million, led by BMW i Ventures. It represents BMW’s first-ever investment in carbon capture technology.
Air Transat inks agreement to purchase sustainable aviation fuel from Canadian power-to-liquid start-up
Fri 17 July 2020 – Leisure carrier Air Transat has signed an offtake agreement, claimed to be the first in Canada, to purchase a significant portion of synthetic jet fuel from future production by the SAF+ Consortium. The power-to-liquid (PtL) fuel will be derived by capturing waste CO2 from a chemical plant located in Montreal East and use water and renewable electricity to produce drop-in sustainable aviation fuel (SAF). Construction of a pilot plant is due for completion in 2021, with plans by the Quebec company for a pre-commercial demonstration plant to follow around 2025. The demo plant is expected to capture 10,000 tonnes of CO2e annually, which should produce around 3 million litres annually, it said. Finance for the pilot plant is coming from a mix of public funding through Natural Resources Canada and equity investment from partners and private sources.
The PtL process takes CO2 from the atmosphere or other sources and is mixed with hydrogen obtained by electrolysis of water to produce a syngas, which is then introduced into a Fischer-Tropsch reactor where liquid fuels are generated through a catalytic synthesis process. Such fuels are already approved in blends up to 50% with conventional jet kerosene. SAF+ estimates its product will have 80% lower life-cycle greenhouse gas emissions than conventional fuel.
“Capturing CO2 which should have otherwise been released in the atmosphere and give it a second use only makes sense,” said Keith Lawless, Senior Director, Environment, ETS and Strategic Projects at Air Transat. “Not only do you reduce your footprint but you also achieve a substantial reduction of GHG, helping Quebec and Canada meet its climate change objectives.”
Added Jean-François Lemay, President of Air Transat: “We are committed to offering our clients a low-carbon footprint travelling experience, while achieving our environmental obligations.”
The CO2 feedstock will come from the smokestack of the Parachem chemical plant, reported SAF+ Consortium CEO Jean Paquin. “As for the electricity, Quebec has a renewable supply – mainly from hydro – of green energy at a very cheap rate,” he said.
Earlier this year, the company signed an agreement with Ontario firm Zeton for the engineering, procurement and construction of the pilot plant.
“If everything goes to plan, we expect to be building a large-scale commercial plant with a 30 million litre capacity by 2030,” forecast Paquin.
As well as Air Transat and Parachem, other partners in the project include CCG, Aéroports de Montréal, École Polytechnique de Montréal, Université de Sherbrooke, CIRAIG and Valorisation Carbone Québec Project.
“The demand for SAF in the aviation sector will almost double annually for the next 30 years. So solutions such as the production of SAF in Montreal will put Quebec and Canada on the map, while providing great jobs for the future,” said Alexandru Iordan, Chief Technology Officer of SAF+ Consortium.
Neste supplies San Francisco International with first batch of sustainable aviation fuel through existing fuel pipeline
Thu 16 July 2020 – Finland-based Neste has delivered its first batch of sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) to San Francisco International Airport (SFO) following an agreement it signed in 2018 with a group of eight airlines and fuel producers to expand the use of SAF at the airport. The blended jet fuel, made up of 35% SAF, is being supplied to aircraft at SFO through the existing pipeline infrastructure, another first. Neste’s renewable jet Fuel product is made from renewable waste and residue materials, such as used cooking oil or animal fats, and final processing and production activity for the SFO batch was completed in Houston, Texas, before being shipped to San Francisco. The company said the greenhouse gas reductions from the the volumes it is supplying to SFO would be the equivalent of taking 1,200 narrowbody flights between SFO and New York out of service.
“We are extremely happy to have partnered with SFO, a forerunner with a concrete emission reduction strategy, to address climate change and support them in achieving climate targets,” said Thorsten Lange, EVP for Renewable Aviation at Neste.
“In neat form and over the life cycle, Neste MY Renewable Jet Fuel reduces GHG emissions up to 80% compared to fossil jet fuel. It can be easily delivered in a multi-product pipeline, which should become a standard process in the future.”
Neste currently has the capacity to produce up to 34 million gallons of sustainable aviation fuel per year, with ambitions to be able to produce up to 340 million gallons by 2022. It also aspires to make its production operations carbon neutral by 2035.
“This is a major milestone in our goal to make SFO a hub for the use of sustainable aviation fuel in our pursuit of carbon neutrality,” commented SFO Airport Director Ivar Satero on the delivery. “By focusing on the entire supply chain process, achievements like this one have the power to transform the landscape of our entire industry. I am grateful for our partnership with Neste to make this climate quantum jump a reality.”
The agreement signed in September 2018 included United Airlines, Alaska Airlines, American Airlines and Cathay Pacific, which between them at the time represented nearly 70% of all flights at SFO. The four fuel producers involved are the airport’s two primary suppliers, Chevron and Shell, along with LanzaTech and Neste.
SFO had been working on a study to identify the necessary supply chain and infrastructure required for expanded use of SAF and the signatories to the agreement are participating in a SAF stakeholder working group, which includes airlines, fuel providers, government agencies, researchers and NGOs. The addition of credits for alternative aviation fuels in California’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard has given a boost to the use of SAF at airports like SFO.
“This is a clear signal to anyone wondering what the future of air travel is – it will be low-emission, it will be sustainable and it will be powered by sustainable aviation fuel,” said Chris Cooper, VP Renewable Aviation at Neste North America.
SFO has a five-year strategic plan of becoming the world’s first ‘triple zero’ airport, achieving not just carbon neutrality but also zero net energy and zero waste. In fiscal 2018, it had curtailed its emissions by 39% from a 1990 baseline, reduced per-passenger water use by 22.5% below 2013 levels and natural gas use by 10%. It is certified at Level 3 under the industry’s Airport Carbon Accreditation programme and is striving for the highest Level 3+ carbon neutrality recognition by 2021.