SPECTRUM NEWS 1
5 things to know about sustainable air fuel
December 2, 2021
Nowadays, we all have to think more carefully about our planet regarding the amount of carbon each of us creates or causes to be released into the atmosphere. Long airplane flights that burn up enormous quantities of jet fuel are now firmly in the cross-hairs of environmentalists. So what can we do about it?
Here are five things to know:
There are about 46 million flights around the world every year, which means air travel adds up to about 3% of our planet’s global carbon emissions. That’s not something that’s going to be easy to stop. Our world has become a global village where families and businesses connect by hopping on planes to the tune of about 4 billion passenger journeys globally every year. That also amounts to about 65 million jobs. That’s money in the bank that also keeps our global economies sky high.
In the future, one major way to keep us from flying will no doubt be electric aircraft with zero emissions, but that “won’t fly” yet as we’re still at least a decade away from planes with dense enough batteries. So meanwhile, the solution will have to be liquid. And one solution is SAF: sustainable aviation fuel.
What’s it made of? Well, as it happens, lots of different stuff! Not from fossil fuel like oil or gas, but from refining organic and waste products like cooking oil, food waste and even plants like the salicornia succulent that can grow in seawater and make oil-bearing seeds that are excellent for biofuel.
The U.S. Department of Energy believes it’s possible by 2040 to produce 50 billion tons of SAF from only one billion tons of biomass, organic matter that isn’t food. How much energy is that? Well, enough to generate electricity for about twice the number of homes in New York.
Using it is simple. SAF is a drop-in fuel, meaning it can be added to regular airline fuel without changes to the engines. Researchers believe that solid waste in landfills that produces methane could be used to make billions more gallons of SAF, using facilities that are much like modern oil refineries. The airline industry is hoping to produce around two billion tons of SAF by 2030, which will be a significant step towards completely decarbonizing all of our flights.
When you look at how quickly we found a vaccine for COVID-19, if there was a similar push toward sustainable aviation fuel, the future of air travel could fly rapidly in a zero-emissions direction. Until then, the future of airline travel will remain up in the air.