Sustainable aviation bio fuel, a hope towards green aviation.


By Rubina Obaid

While cars and trains are moving towards becoming more environment friendly, air travel is considered as one of the major culprit of carbon emission and the booming number of passengers will increase it even more in next twenty years. As the world cannot sustain the accelerating climate crisis therefore it is imperative to target the aviation sector which needs to be decarbonized. Despite ongoing improvement aviation industry is responsible to emit 2% of carbon dioxide currently which was expected to grow 70 percent by mid of century according to pre corona virus statistics. Decarbonizing all the flights seems impossible but International Air Transport Association (IATA) striving to tackle carbon emission and hopeful to reduce 50% of carbon emission as compared to 2005 by 2050

Currently, liquid hydrocarbon fuels are used for powering commercial air travels, whereas in order to switch towards improved aviation sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) such as bio fuel is a prime roadmap for decarbonizing aviation. The plan involved reducing 36.3% of emission through carbon offsetting, 33% from fuel efficient planes and 4.4% from improved operations, 6% from the effect of carbon price on demand and 20.3% would be from sustainable aviation fuel (SAF). Henceforth, it is anticipated 10% of biofuel demand by 2030 is going to increase 20% by 2040, which was reflected IEA’s sustainable development scenario (SDS). According to International Energy Transition Commission (ETC) refined kerosene used for jet fuel can be replaced with carbon neutral technology by the year 2050. They further highlighted options for sustainable renewable fuel sources such as electric batteries and green hydrogen which are suitable for short flights and synthetic fuel obtained through green hydrogen also known as electro fuels and bio fuels.

However, SAF is more expensive due to which it is one of the main barriers to its wider use, hence utilizing aviation bio fuel is difficult due to the greater overhead cost. On the other hand road transport can be substituted with electric vehicles which is not easy in the case of air transport. According to university of Pennsylvania, a Boeing 747  flying from New York to London requires energy of 3881 tonnes of batteries to complete the journey which is more than ten times plane’s maximum take-off weight. Despite being facing the problem with electric batteries International Civil Aviation Organization lists 27 electric planes currently in development by Boeing and Airbus which would partly be impelled by electric motors. 

Most airlines and green aviation advocates are focused on replacing jet fuel. The cost of electricity is the dominant term in electro fuel production cost. Sarah Wilkin the founder of Fly Green Alliance says that Recharge is viable but right now it is way too expensive to bring in process, so the processing price needs to be brought down. She further added that it will increase the modest airline flight price that customers will not be willing to pay for the support of green fuel. It will take time to make the customers understand to contribute for environment friendly aviation. However some airlines offer to offset passenger at the point of sale against additional fee but few of them would want to take up the opportunity.

For producing jet bio fuel there are five methods which have been approved by ASTM for blending it with standard jet fuel but out of those five, only one has been matured and commercialized yet. Since 2016 more than 200,000 flights used SAF, but only small amount of bio fuel was blended with conventional fuel. Still there is a long way to go as the sheer scale of volume is involved for the transition of green aviation sector and it will take 20 more years to achieve fully decaronized aviation.

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