UK aviation has managed to decouple passenger increase from carbon and noise growth, says industry report

Tue 19 Dec 2017 – UK cross-industry coalition group Sustainable Aviation (SA) says the sector has succeeded in disconnecting the growth in passenger numbers from the rate of growth in carbon and noise emissions. In its latest progress report, carbon emissions from the six airline members of the group – British Airways, easyJet, Monarch, Thomas Cook, Thomson Airways and Virgin Atlantic – increased by less than half a per cent between 2014 and 2016 despite a 9% increase in the number of passengers flown. During the same period, it reports a reduction of 12,000 people in the noise contour areas of five SA member airports. Commending the report, the UK Aviation Minister, Baroness Sugg, said sustainable growth was one of the key objectives of the government’s long-term strategy for UK aviation.

Total CO2 emissions from the five airlines in 2016 amounted to 33.6 million tonnes, a 0.2% increase since 2014 compared with a 2% in passenger revenue tonne-kilometres (RTKs). Fuel efficiency reached 0.347 litres/RTK in 2016, a 2% improvement over the two years and 13% better than 2005.

“Aviation is a UK success story. However, delivering environmentally sustainable aviation growth in the UK, with the significant economic benefits that it brings, is a challenge that our industry is ready to meet,” said SA Chair, Ian Jopson, acknowledging “there is more to do.”

Jopson, who is Head of Environment and Community Affairs at air navigation services provider NATS, stands down after a two-year tenure. Achievements made by the group and its members during that period, he said in the introduction to SA’s Sixth Progress Report, included an updated roadmap on delivering long-term carbon emission reductions from the sector, a leading contribution by UK airlines in securing global progress on the CORSIA emissions scheme and significant progress in creating a UK sustainable aviation fuels sector.

The latter had been achieved by securing the inclusion of such fuels in the government’s Renewable Transport Fuels Obligation and working with the government agency Innovate UK to form a group to bring together interested stakeholders. Jopson also noted progress on airspace modernisation following the government’s publication earlier this year of a revised UK Airspace Policy.

“The industry is committed to playing its role,” said Jopson. “However, we can’t achieve sustainable growth without the support and action of government.”

Sustainable Aviation published a report earlier this year on local air quality around airports, which found that aircraft emissions contributed just 1% of UK NOx emissions, compared to 32% from road transport, and 0.1% of PM10 emissions.

“However, we recognise the need to tackle this issue head on and we set out in that report a number of activities to further reduce the air quality impact of aviation,” said Jopson.

Noise, though, had been a priority for SA’s activities in 2016, he said. “We have made good progress against our 2013 Road-Map. However, I think it is fair to say that these benefits have not always been reflected by community perceptions. It is essential that we better understand the concerns of local communities.”

The group has commissioned independent research involving focus groups and one of the first tasks of incoming Chair, Neil Robinson, is to oversee the publication in early 2018 of a discussion paper on ways to further reduce aircraft noise.

Also in 2018, SA is to publish its vision for aviation in 2050 and the following year to update again its CO2 roadmap.

“I am delighted to be taking over as Chair at such an interesting time,” said Robinson, who is Group CSR Director at Manchester Airports Group, in the progress report. “As we prepare to enter the CORSIA scheme from 2020; the UK government develops a new Aviation Strategy, which places safe and sustainable growth at its heart; and we seek to limit global temperature rises to less than 1.5C, it has never been a more important time for Sustainable Aviation and our members.”

Speaking at the launch of the report, Baroness Sugg, the new Aviation Minister, said: “The aviation sector is one of our key industries, essential to our future prosperity and the very symbol of global Britain. But as we continue to push the boundaries of success, sustainability must remain at the heart of everything we do. I am encouraged by the actions of the aviation industry to embrace that commitment.”

Copyright © 2017 GreenAir Communications

Airline fuel efficiency gains not keeping pace with rapid growth in passenger traffic and emissions, finds studies

ICCT and atmosfair found Alaska Airlines to be the most fuel efficient US carrier

Wed 20 Dec 2017 – Fuel efficiency gains and fleet modernisation have failed to keep pace with overall growth in aircraft carbon emissions as a result of the rapid increase in air passenger travel, finds two reports monitoring airline performance. In its annual ranking of the carbon efficiency of 200 of the world’s largest airlines that are responsible for 92 per cent of worldwide air traffic, German organisation atmosfair says global CO2 emissions increased by 4 per cent in the past year, while the kilometres flown rose by almost 7 per cent. It says airlines are only modernising their fleets at a slow pace with just 1 per cent of aircraft worldwide classified as highly fuel efficient. A study by US NGO the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT) found a sharp increase in passenger traffic drove up both profits and fuel consumption on US domestic airline operations between 2014 and 2016.

Atmosfair says even the best performing airline fleets emit on average 20% more CO2 per kilometre than the most fuel efficient planes operating at full capacity such as the Airbus A350-900 or Boeing 787-9. A fleet with only a medium level of efficiency in technology and operations releases twice as much carbon than the most fuel efficient aircraft. These new aircraft models, which can achieve consumption values of less than 3.5 litres of kerosene per 100 passengers, have raised the bar considerably in terms of carbon efficiency, it says.

Airlines that have not updated their fleets or have only made small improvements have lost ground in its latest 2017 ranking, notes atmosfair. The Atmosfair Airline Index is based on the CO2 emissions of an airline per passenger-kilometre flown on all routes, and calculated using the aircraft type, engines, use of winglets and seating and freight capacity, as well as occupancy. The efficiency index is intended to be used by travellers to compare airlines when planning their flight.

The highest ranking airlines in the index will therefore be those with the most modern fleets with high seating densities and high passenger and cargo loads. Differences among airlines on the same route can be substantial, says atmosfair, with fuel consumption per passenger-kilometre possibly being twice as high for one airline than for another.

UK charter airline TUI Airways (formerly Thomson Airways) once again topped the index, reaching 80% of the technically achievable optimum. Its German counterpart TUIFly ranked third, with regional carrier China West Air in second place in the overall ranking.

European and Chinese airlines performed well, says atmosfair, with South America’s LATAM ranked as the best international net carriers as a result of its modern fleet and high rate of occupancy. US carriers performed less well overall with only three – Alaska, Delta and United – making it into the top 50 airlines in the world.

For the 2015-2016 period, Alaska Airlines was also ranked by ICCT as the most fuel efficient on US domestic operations for the seventh year in a row, while the gap between it and the least efficient carrier, Virgin America, in 2016 widened slightly to 26%.

Between 2014 and 2016, ICCT calculates overall passenger-kilometres on US domestic operations rose by 10%, outstripping a 3% overall improvement in fuel efficiency, causing fuel use and CO2 emissions to jump by 7%.

“Industry-wide, demand is swamping energy efficiency improvements and emissions are spiking as a result,” said ICCT’s Naya Olmer, lead author of the study. Since 2012, the average profit margin for US domestic carriers has increased nearly six-fold thanks to lower fuel prices and higher ancillary fees, finds ICCT, and those carriers saved around $17 billion in fuel costs last year, about 20% of which was passed on to passengers in lower fares.

Around 30% of global CO2 emissions are attributable to US aircraft and the FAA projects aviation activity to increase 2-3% annually through to 2037.

“With airline profits surging, we need to explore environmental and consumer protection if the US is going to cap aviation carbon emissions from 2020, as it has committed to do,” commented Dan Rutherford, ICCT’s aviation Program Director and co-author of the study.

Said Dietrich Brockhagen, CEO of atmosfair: “Our findings show that aviation worldwide is not on track to meet the 1.5 degree or the 2 degree target for global warming. While some airlines have significantly improved their carbon efficiency by purchasing new aircraft, the pace of modernisation is not fast enough from a global standpoint.”

Copyright © 2017 GreenAir Communications

UN senior climate official calls on all governments to join CORSIA and up long-term ambitions to reduce aviation CO2

Mon 9 Oct 2017 – The participation of all countries in ICAO’s global CORSIA carbon offsetting scheme is needed for it to be fully effective, a senior UNFCCC official told industry leaders at last week’s Global Sustainable Aviation Summit in Geneva. Even then the sector’s aspirational goal of stabilising emissions at 2020 levels would not be enough to reach the Paris climate agreement targets, said Ovais Sarmad, Deputy Executive Secretary of the UN climate change agency. However, he commended the aviation industry’s 2050 reduction target and called on ICAO to up its own long-term ambitions. Dr Olumuyiwa Benard Aliu, President of ICAO’s governing Council, told the conference that a steering group of ICAO’s CAEP environmental committee had finalised recommendations for new CORSIA regulations and the UN aviation agency was working with the UNFCCC on eligible emissions units for the scheme.

In a keynote address, Sarmad said the success of the Paris Agreement would “depend on the combined efforts of every man, woman, child, government, business and industry – including the airline industry.”

While under the Agreement and its Kyoto Protocol predecessor only emissions from domestic aviation were taken into account, “climate change knows no borders nor does it have an opt-out clause,” he said.

“That’s why we welcome the decision of ICAO to implement the first global carbon market-based mechanism – CORSIA – to stabilise emissions at 2020 levels. CORSIA is the world’s first market-based measure for dealing with climate change from any industrial sector. This alone is significant and represents a much-needed step forward in ensuring that international aviation will be part of the solution to climate change.

“Nonetheless, we feel the long-term goals of ICAO need further improvement in order to be in line with the Paris Agreement. Remember, we set ourselves the target to stay well below 2 degrees C of global temperature increase. To reach it, science tells us that emissions must peak as soon as possible and we must achieve climate neutrality in the second half of this century.

“The aspirational goal of stabilising emissions at 2020 is therefore a good start, but these levels will not be enough to reach the Paris Agreement’s targets. Simply put, we need more ambition.”

Sarmad noted the aviation industry had accepted responsibility with a more ambitious target to reduce its emissions by 50% by 2050 compared to 2005 levels.

“This is the kind of ambition that every government should be happy to support the aviation industry to achieve,” he said. “Therefore, in addition to ICAO upping its long-term ambition for aviation overall, we need more member states joining CORSIA.

“The industry has pushed to get CORSIA implemented for more than six years but, as of September, only 72 member states out of 191 have volunteered to be part of its first phases. Let’s be clear: this represents close to 88% of international activity and 80% of emissions growth above 2020 levels – but the participation of all member states is needed for it to be fully effective.”

In the period leading up to the start of CORSIA, he said, clear guidelines on emissions units needed to be set, for example to avoid double-counting, and he encouraged airlines to take early voluntary action to reduce and offset their greenhouse gas emissions.

“The early actors will have the benefit of having complete systems, experience and a good understanding of what climate action means for their companies. There are significant benefits for airlines to benefit from learning-by-doing.”

ICAO’s Dr Aliu said the agency was “fully engaged” on the full implementation of CORSIA and was “very hard at work” on its regulatory framework. The Steering Group of its Committee on Aviation Environmental Protection (CAEP) had recently finalised recommendations for the new Volume IV of Annex 16 to the Chicago Convention containing proposed Standards and Recommended Practices (SARPs) for CORSIA, he reported.

“These are now being reviewed simultaneously through the ICAO Air Navigation Commission and the Council Advisory Group on CORSIA, and they are expected to be finally adopted by the ICAO Council by mid-2018. The related applicability date is presently being targeted for January 2019,” he told delegates in his keynote speech.

The SARPs would be complemented with standardised templates, guidance and tools for what he described as “robust and transparent” monitoring, reporting and verification (MRV) of international aviation CO2 emissions, which he said was crucial to the overall effectiveness of CORSIA. ICAO is currently developing a CO2 Estimation and Reporting Tool (CERT) to help simplify MRV procedures.

Recent reports have suggested a difference of opinion by certain states at ICAO on who should determine which emissions units are eligible under the scheme that airlines may use. However, Dr Aliu said that as it had been requested by its Assembly in 2016, the responsibility would rest with ICAO.

“One thing we should be very clear about in this context is that relationship between ICAO and the UNFCCC process,” he said. “We have a very good partnership with the UNFCCC Secretariat, by exchanging information and expertise of mutual interests, while respecting the specific mandates of each organisation.

“In considering carbon credits, special attention will be given to those credits generated from the UNFCCC and its Paris Agreement, as agreed by the Assembly, but our goal must be to make sure that reliable credits will be purchased by international aviation, without the possibility of them being used for double counting by other sectors. I expect good progress in the UNFCCC process, so that ICAO can take into account the relevant developments in our decision on eligible emissions units for CORSIA.”

Copyright © 2017 GreenAir Communications

Flights in all world regions at greater risk of severe turbulence incidents as a result of climate change

Tue 10 Oct 2017 – In May, 27 passengers on board an Aeroflot flight from Moscow to Bangkok were injured when the Boeing 777 encountered clear-air turbulence. Because the plane was unable to detect the turbulence ahead, passengers had not been warned to fasten their seat belts. There is evidence that clear-air turbulence (CAT) has already risen by 40-90% over Europe and North America since 1958 and studies by researchers from the universities of Reading and East Anglia in the UK have shown that as a consequence of climate change, the frequency of turbulence on flights between Europe and North America could double by 2050 and the intensity increase by 10-40%. The same researchers have since extended their previous work by analysing eight geographic regions, two flight levels, five turbulence strength categories and four seasons, and found large increases in CAT.

“While turbulence does not usually pose a major danger to flights, it is responsible for hundreds of passenger injuries every year,” said Luke Storer, a researcher at the University of Reading and co-author of the new study. “It is also by far the most common cause of serious injuries to flight attendants. Turbulence is thought to cost US air carriers up to $200 million annually.”

Previous research focused on turbulence over the North Atlantic region – one of the busiest air routes in the world – and suggested climate change will increase high-altitude wind instabilities in the jet stream in winter, generating stronger and more frequent pockets of CAT. Using supercomputer simulations of the future atmosphere, the new study analysed changes to CAT over the entire globe by the second half of the century.

The researchers found strong increases in CAT in all regions, in particular the mid-latitudes in both hemispheres where the busiest flights are in operation, and some regions may experience several hundred per cent more turbulence. They also found that of the five turbulence strength categories, the strongest turbulence will increase the most.

Flights to the most popular international destinations are projected to experience the largest increases, with severe turbulence at a typical cruising altitude of 39,000 feet becoming up to two or three times as common throughout the year over the North Atlantic (180% more common), Europe (160% more common), North America (110% more common), the North Pacific (90% more common) and Asia (60% more common).

The study also makes the first ever turbulence projections for the Southern Hemisphere, finding the amount of airspace containing severe turbulence is calculated to increase over South America by 60% and over Australia and Africa by 50%.

“Air turbulence is increasing across the globe, in all seasons, and at multiple cruising altitudes. This problem is only going to worsen as the climate continues to change,” said Paul Williams, Professor of Atmospheric Science at the University of Reading and lead author of the study.

He said the results highlighted an increasing need to improve operational CAT forecasts and to use them effectively in flight planning. “Despite containing useful information and demonstrably improving the safety and comfort of air travel, these forecasts continue to include a substantial fraction of false positives and missed events,” he added.

The study points out that future aeronautical advances, such as remote sensing of CAT using onboard light detection and ranging (lidar) technology, might be able to mitigate the operational effects of the worsening atmospheric turbulence. For example, Boeing is collaborating with the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency to develop a system that will detect CAT more than 60 seconds, or about 17.5km, ahead of the aircraft (see Wired article). Even if it does not give pilots enough time to divert round the threat, it would alert crew and minimise the risk of injuries.

“Our findings may have implications for aviation operations in the coming decades,” say the researchers. “Many of the aircraft that will be flying in the second half of the present century are currently in the design phase. It would therefore seem sensible for the aircraft manufacturers to prepare for a more turbulent atmosphere, even at this early stage.”

The study, ‘Global response of clear-air turbulence to climate change’, is published in Geophysical Research Letters, a journal of the American Geophysical Union.


Copyright © 2017 GreenAir Communications

Zunum Aero reveals details of its 12-seat hybrid-electric passenger aircraft that it hopes to be operational by 2022

Fri 13 Oct 2017 – US-based Zunum Aero has revealed more details of its hybrid-electric 12-seat regional aircraft that it claims will be operational by 2022. In April, Zunum announced it had received backing from Boeing HorizonX and JetBlue Technology Ventures (see article). The aircraft is being designed to have a maximum cruise speed of 340 miles an hour and a take-off distance of 2,200 feet (670m), and the company believes it can open up fast and affordable travel for thousands of communities across the United States. It is expected to have up to 80 per cent lower emissions compared to comparable jet aircraft, and over time Zunum’s quest is to eliminate emissions with an all-electric version. UK low-cost carrier easyJet recently unveiled its support for an electric regional aircraft in development by US start-up, Wright Electric (see article).

The US has many thousands of small airports yet Zunum says around 96% of air traffic travels through 1% of its airports, leaving a large untapped market on short routes where it is unprofitable for private jets and commercial airlines to operate. The company believes that with advances in battery technology, lightweight electric motors and carbon composite airframes, direct costs could work out at eight US cents per seat-mile, or $250 per hour – about one-fifth that of a small jet or turboprop plane. Many smaller airports also have environmental constraints that Zunum says its aircraft can overcome.

The aircraft would be powered by two electric motors and a supplemental jet-fuel engine to ensure the plane has a range of up to 700 miles – about two hours of flight – and so well beyond current battery technology capability. The motor being designed by Zunum will drive a fan similar to the bypass fan on a conventional jet engine but without combustion. These quiet electric propulsors with their variable pitch fans would enable a 40% reduction in runway needs and a 75% drop in community noise. Wing-integrated batteries would enable tailoring of onboard battery capacity and quick-swap or recharge at airports.

The company says it is discussing with aircraft manufacturers about building the airframe. It is planning to open a second development in the Chicago area and start ground tests ahead of first flights planned for 2019.

With projected advances in battery technology Zunum is setting its sights on a larger 50-seater plane with a range of 1,000 miles by the end of the next decade.

“Regional travel is ripe for reinvention,” says JetBlue Technology Ventures, which backs travel and technology early start-ups. “Options for journeys up to a thousand miles are far from ideal, limited to slow travel on the ground and air service consolidating to large hubs. As a result, door-to-door times have not improved for decades, and the only alternative, high-speed rail, is limited by heavy capital needs for a few dense corridors. Zunum Aero aims to change that.”


Copyright © 2017 GreenAir Communications

States agree not to set targets as ICAO unveils its long-term vision on sustainable aviation fuels deployment

Mon 16 Oct 2017 – ICAO concluded its second Conference on Aviation and Alternative Fuels (CAAF/2) held in Mexico City with an agreement on a long-term vision for the development, production and supply of sustainable aviation fuels (SAF) through to 2050. Delegates from Member States, industry and environmental groups had initially been asked to support ICAO’s Vision 2050 proposals for short, mid and long term goals that would ensure a 2% share of SAF in international aviation fuel demand by 2025, rising to 32% in 2040 and 50% by 2050. However, a number of States, along with industry and NGOs, failed to back the setting of targets and the conference settled instead for wording that calls for a “significant percentage” of SAF by 2050. The aviation industry said it welcomed the emphasis on developing robust sustainability criteria as a central component of alternative aviation fuels deployment.

Opening the conference, ICAO Council President Dr Olumuyiwa Benard Aliu said current progress on reducing aviation emissions through technological innovation and streamlined operations was not sufficient to meet ICAO 2020 targets.

“Even after these have been accounted for, we are still left with a significant mitigation requirement,” he said. “Sustainable alternative fuels are critical to closing this gap.”

He noted that more than 40,000 flights had been conducted using sustainable fuels since they were first introduced and a number of airports were now offering such fuels to airlines interested in purchasing them.

“Through these numerous actions, the aviation sector has now supplied the proof of concept for sustainable aviation fuels, confirming their operational viability and the feasibility of producing them in sustainable ways which lessen the impact of aviation on the climate,” he told delegates.

The proposed ICAO Vision 2050 targets represented 5 million tonnes (Mt) per year of SAF being used by airlines in 2025, 128 Mt per year at the mid-term 2040 waypoint and 285 Mt/year by 2050.

ICAO figures show that international aviation consumed around 142 Mt of conventional jet fuel in 2010. By 2050 the UN agency estimates fuel consumption will reach 860 Mt if considering only rising demand for air travel and natural fleet renewal. If the potential contribution of advancing technology together with air traffic management and infrastructure use improvements are taken into account, the estimated fuel consumption could decrease to 570 Mt in 2050, representing a 71% share of the expected global – international plus domestic – aviation annual fuel burn. The ICAO Vision therefore only considers SAF usage on international flight routes.

Given accepted significant uncertainties in predicting the long-term contribution of SAF, ICAO’s Committee on Aviation Environmental Protection (CAEP) evaluated 120 SAF deployment scenarios for 2050, taking into consideration the global availability of resources, economic conditions, financial investments and policy decisions required to reach the assessed levels of global SAF production. The associated CO2 emissions reductions were calculated for each scenario.

The short-term goal of 5 Mt per year of SAF by 2025 is considered by the ICAO Secretariat as a “reasonable assumption”, based on current off-take agreements reached by airlines with biofuel producers of around 0.9 Mt per year. It sees recent policy decisions in countries like Norway, India, France and the UK to end the sale of gasoline and diesel cars by or before 2040 as driving large quantities of ‘green diesel’ – a current global capacity of 3.45 Mt/year – from road transport towards the aviation sector.

The Secretariat also believes international agreement on the SAF sustainability criteria under the ICAO CORSIA carbon offsetting scheme will address some of the uncertainties faced by industry and foster confidence in SAF investment.

CAEP narrowed down its 2050 forecast to four scenarios: low (4% SAF share of jet fuel consumption), illustrative (28%), intermediate (50%) and maximum (100%). Although 100% was possible, it says in a paper (WP/6) presented to CAAF/2, this would require 170 new biorefineries to be built annually from 2020 to 2050, at an approximate cost of $15-60 billion per year if growth occurred linearly. If investment and growth began slowly and ramped up over time, it estimates over 500 new biorefineries would have to be constructed every year in the late 2040s and almost 1,000 new biorefineries would be required in 2050, requiring capital investments of $1-3 billion per year in 2025 and $80-340 billion per year in 2050.

Achieving a 100% SAF consumption by 2050 could reduce net CO2 emissions by about 63%, determined CAEP. However, this would require the realisation of the highest assumed increases in agricultural productivity, highest availability of land for feedstock cultivation, highest residue removal rates, highest conversion efficiency improvements, largest reductions in the GHG emissions of utilities, as well as a strong market or policy emphasis on bioenergy in general and SAFs in particular.

“This implies that a large share of the globally available bioenergy resource would be devoted to producing aviation fuel, as opposed to other uses,” says the ICAO Secretariat.

The intermediate 2050 scenario with 50% substitution by SAF – the scenario proposed by the Secretariat – assumes improvements in fuel production efficiencies and high availability of bioenergy feedstocks, the production of which would need to be significantly incentivised by favourable markets or policy mechanisms.

The three targets, however, met with resistance from a number of States attending CAAF/2, with some calling into question whether biofuels provided a solution to the carbon neutrality of the aviation sector. In a paper to the conference (WP/20), the Russian Federation said the lack of land resources required in order to meet the world’s energy needs using biofuels was “a major concern”, adding: “Thus, since forested areas need to be cleared, vast amounts of carbon will be released, creating a carbon debt requiring centuries to repay.” The paper argued biofuel production posed a serious global risk to food and water resources.

In its paper (WP/26), China said it had proactively pursued the adoption and deployment of SAF since the first CAAF in 2009 and welcomed initiatives to maximise the contribution of such fuels to the environmentally sustainable future of international aviation. However, it had “serious concerns” with the goals set out by the Secretariat that had been “developed without full political and technical consultations among States”. It also said the uncertainty over the contribution of SAF to emissions reduction from international aviation made the ICAO carbon-neutral growth target (CNG2020) “impracticable”.

Supporters of the deployment goals put forward by the Secretariat, Brazil and Indonesia said in a joint paper (WP/18) that to ensure the long-term take-up of SAF, a mechanism should be developed and incorporated into the CORSIA review process that guaranteed a smooth transition from the use of market-based measures to the use of SAF. This, they suggested, could be achieved by establishing a ceiling that would be lowered year by year on the total amount of the growth in emissions post-2021 that could be neutralised through offsetting. The two countries expressed their concern that under present conditions, policies and mechanisms, it will be cheaper for aircraft operators to offset their emissions by purchasing emissions units than by covering the price gap between fossil fuels and SAF.

The United States’ view is that the role of ICAO in the global deployment of SAF should be as a facilitator rather than coming up with policies that direct State action. What might be a successful policy in one State may not be applicable to another and development and deployment will vary among States and regions, it argued in WP/16. “Thus, while we agree with a defined goal, we would not support specifying the means to achieve that goal,” it said.

It was important that States learn from one another, it added, and ICAO was ideally situated to facilitate information sharing and coordination.

ICAO’s facilitating role was supported in a joint paper submitted on behalf of industry (WP/25), which also encouraged States to put in place policy frameworks that strongly incentivised SAF development, production in use. While supporting the Secretariat’s aspirational 2025 goal of 5 Mt per year of SAF, the paper said there should be a focus on identifying pathways to achieve it, which should articulate the requisite policy drivers. However, industry believes there is too much uncertainty at present, particularly concerning the costs of SAF, to define a long-term goal.

“For that reason, we believe it would only be appropriate to consider defining a mid-term SAF aspirational goal, including identification of pathways for striving towards the goal, once progress and achievement of an aspirational 2025 goal can be assessed,” said the paper.

In its submission (WP/21) to CAAF/2, the International Coalition for Sustainable Aviation (ICSA), which represents environmental groups at ICAO, urged States to avoid endorsing volumetric targets for SAF. “In effect, the targets maximise the volume of SAF utilised rather than the amount of carbon abated,” it said. “This could result in substantial policy support going towards fuels that either increase aviation sector emissions or, at best, provide marginal benefits.”

It added that the CAEP scenarios relied heavily on optimistic assumptions on land availability for feedstock cultivation and did not take into account indirect land use change and other sustainability considerations.

The three-day conference, which included representatives from 29 Member States, concluded with an agreement on the 2050 Vision that replaced the initial reference to the aspirational goals with text that States “will seek to ensure that a significant percentage of current conventional aviation fuels would be substituted with sustainable alternatives by 2050.”

ICSA commended the States for rejecting the targets. “The version of the Vision that countries accepted is more reasonable and better reflects the risks of forging headlong into alternative fuels without putting climate change and sustainability concerns first,” said Brad Schallert, Deputy Director at World Wildlife Fund in an ICSA statement.

“Producing alternative fuels at scale globally is inherently risky and should be approached with caution. In ICSA’s view, the Vision should primarily inspire innovation and technological breakthroughs at a level required to meet the challenge of mitigating international aviation’s climate impact.”

Although supportive of a short-term aspirational goal, industry too was pleased that the targets were dropped and greater emphasis had been placed in the Vision on sustainability criteria, which industry representative Michael Gill of the Air Transport Action Group told the conference “should be at the heart of any vision on sustainable aviation fuels.”

He added in a statement after the conference: “Most importantly, delegates confirmed that any alternative fuel deployment should follow sustainability criteria currently being developed by a task force at ICAO, including representatives of environmental groups. Aviation industry representatives strongly supported this, as sustainability should be a central component of any deployment of these new fuels.

“The ICAO Vision represents a commitment from stakeholders meeting at ICAO to follow a path towards increasing deployment of sustainable aviation fuel, one of the key components of our industry’s climate action plan. Periodic reviews of the Vision should look to ramp-up ambition, including at the next conference before 2025. We can then look at the longer-term prospects with the hope that sustainable aviation fuel will make up a significant proportion of our fuel mix in 2050, bringing down emissions and diversifying our energy supply.

“We now urge governments all over the world to join with industry to promote and develop this new source of energy that can bring up to an 80% reduction in CO2 compared with traditional jet fuel. The Vision will need to be developed further over time, but it also sets industry and governments a challenge we will meet together.”

ICAO stressed the Vision was “a living instrument”, with progress towards achieving it regularly assessed through a stocktaking process.

“The new ICAO Vision agreed at the Mexico event will now help guide international civil aviation stakeholders as they work to employ sustainable fuel alternatives and significantly reduce aviation emissions,” said the UN agency in a statement.

Links:

2nd ICAO Conference on Aviation and Alternative Fuels – Documentation and working papers

ICAO and Aviation Alternative Fuels


Update Oct 24:

ICAO has now released its CAAF/2 Declaration that defines the ICAO Vision on Aviation and Alternative Fuels and Future Objectives. It can be downloaded here

Copyright © 2017 GreenAir Communications

Qantas and Virgin Australia agree to purchase renewable jet fuels from US companies

Tue 17 Oct 2017 – Qantas has announced that its flights from Los Angeles will be powered by biofuel from 2020 as a result of an off-take agreement with US bioenergy company SG Preston. The Australian airline says it will purchase 8 million gallons (30 million litres) of renewable jet fuel per year for a 10-year period. The fuel will be a 50/50 blend of conventional jet fuel and renewable fuel produced from non-food plant oils that is claimed to emit half the comparable amount of carbon emissions on a life-cycle basis. Last year, SG Preston entered into a similar off-take agreement with JetBlue in which the US carrier will purchase more than 33 million gallons of blended jet fuel per year for at least 10 years, with the renewable jet fuel portion making up 30% of the total blend. Meanwhile, Qantas rival Virgin Australia has announced it will shortly start trialling the use of renewable jet fuel supplied by Gevo through Brisbane Airport’s existing fuel supply system.

Qantas and JetStar operated Australia’s first biofuel trial flights in 2012, which both used fuels derived from used cooking oil blended 50/50 with conventional jet fuel. The agreement though with SG Preston is the first of its kind in Australian aviation history, said Gareth Evans, CEO of Qantas International and Freight.

“The partnership with SG Preston is part of our commitment to lowering carbon emissions across our operations and sees us becoming the first Australian airline to use renewable jet fuel on an ongoing basis,” he said. “As an airline group we are constantly looking for ways to become more fuel efficient and embrace new technologies and this partnership is a significant step on that journey.

“Our agreement allows us to secure a supply for our Los Angeles based aircraft where we have a large fuel demand and where the biofuel industry is more advanced.”

The Virgin Australia trial is a reverse situation in which US renewable alcohol-to-jet (ATJ) fuel company Gevo will ship four batches of jet biofuel to Brisbane, Queensland, over the two-year course of the trial, with the first batch expected this month. The Virgin Australia Group is responsible for coordinating the purchase, supply and blending of the ATJ into the fuel supply system at Brisbane Airport. The ATJ will be shipped from Gevo’s hydrocarbon plant in Silsbee, Texas, having been derived from isobutanol produced at its commercial plant in Luverne, Minnesota.

“This initiative builds on Virgin Australia’s commitment to be a leader in the commercialisation of the sustainable aviation fuel industry in Australia,” said CEO John Borghetti. “The project is critical to testing the fuel supply chain infrastructure in Australia to ensure that Virgin Australia and Brisbane Airport are ready for the commercial supply of these exciting fuels.”

Queensland is looking to exploit locally abundant carbohydrate-based feedstocks to support building renewable jet fuel production plants in the future and the Queensland government is supporting the Gevo/Virgin Australia venture as a first step.

“We believe Queensland offers huge potential for low-cost, biomass-based feedstocks to produce biofuels,” said GEVO CEO Dr Patrick Gruber.

Qantas said it was exploring renewable jet fuel opportunities in Australia and working with suppliers to develop locally produced biofuels for aviation use.

Virgin Australia had partnered with Air New Zealand in issuing a request for information (RFI) in March 2016 seeking companies interested in meeting the long-term biofuel goals of the two airlines (see article). Although still intending to share knowledge and information, they have since gone their separate ways.

This past August, Air New Zealand said it had narrowed the field from an initial list of around 30 to two companies, one of which was US-based Fulcrum BioEnergy. The municipal waste to renewable jet fuel provider has United Airlines and Cathay Pacific among its shareholders. The other unnamed company is believed to be based overseas and interested in bringing its technology to New Zealand to locally produce biofuels from, most likely, wood waste from the timber industry.

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk visited the Fulcrum waste-to-fuels plant in Nevada on a trade visit to the United States in June.

Links:

Qantas – Environment

Virgin Australia – Renewable Jet Fuel

Air New Zealand – Sustainability

Copyright © 2017 GreenAir Communications

Geneva Airport partners with local energy utility to install 50,000m2 of solar panels

Wed 18 Oct 2017 – Geneva Airport has entered into a contract with public energy utility Geneva Industrial Services (SIG) to install solar panels on 50,000 square metres of roof space – the equivalent of about eight football pitches. The array will produce around 7.5 GWh of electricity per year, the equivalent of the annual power consumption of 2,500 local homes. The photovoltaic solar panels will be installed on 10 roofs located around the airport, with an expected completion date of 2020. SIG will build and own the panels for 25 years and has committed 13 million Swiss francs ($13.2m) in funding for the project. The electricity produced by the facility will primarily be used to power the airport, which already boasts solar panels covering 10,000 square metres.

“Sustainable development has been defined as a strategic objective in all activities of the airport,” said André Schneider, Director General of Geneva Airport, announcing the project.

Since 2012, the airport has purchased a combination of renewable energy – solar and biomass – and hydropower from SIG. A solar heating installation enables hot water to be produced for the airport fire brigade building and in 2006 a solar power plant was installed on the main hangar roof and operated by Edisun Power. Hot water for domestic and heating use by more than half the airport is produced by an extra light oil-fired thermal station. In 2010, two solar panel arrays were installed on airport buildings that are now supplying 470 MWh of electricity.

Following a Swiss referendum in May, the country plans to decommission its nuclear power plants over time and shift to renewable energy sources such as solar, wind and geothermal power, with the aim of generating 20% of the country’s electricity through solar alone.

SIG currently owns and manages 39 solar power plants in the canton of Geneva with a production capacity of 48 GWh, and by 2025 expects to ramp this up to 150 GWh of solar power per year.

Last month, Geneva Airport announced it was collaborating with Finland’s Neste to supply renewable jet fuel from late 2018 to airlines serving the airport (see article).

Copyright © 2017 GreenAir Communications

United States adopts ICAO Chapter 14 noise stringency standard for new aircraft designs

(photo: Boeing)

Wed 18 Oct 2017 – The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has passed a rule that requires newly designed aircraft to harmonise with the ICAO Chapter 14 noise standard that came into effect in July 2014. In keeping with FAA numbering of aircraft noise standards, the new standard will be adopted as Stage 5 in the US. The agency believes the standard will ensure that the latest available noise reduction technology is incorporated into new aircraft designs. It represents an increase in stringency of 7 Effective Perceived Noise decibels (EPNdB) relative the previous ICAO Chapter 4 standard, or Stage 4. It will apply to new larger aircraft type designs with a maximum certificated take-off weight (MTOW) of 55 tonnes submitted for certification on or after 31 December 2017. For smaller aircraft with a MTOW of less than 55 tonnes, the standard will apply on or after 31 December 2020. The standard was passed into European Union law in January 2016.

According to the FAA, there were around 200 million passengers flying in the United States in 1975, with about 7 million people on the ground exposed to what is considered significant aircraft noise. A study it carried out in 2015 showed the number of people flying had quadrupled yet the numbers exposed to aircraft noise had dropped to around 340,000, or a 94% reduction in aircraft noise exposure.

“Reducing aircraft noise is important to the FAA because it’s an important quality of life issue for surrounding airport communities,” said FAA Michael Huerta, commenting on the adoption of the new noise standard. “We will continue to do our best through new technologies, procedures and community engagement to make aircraft operations quieter.”

The agency says it is committed to a balanced approach to the noise issue through reduction of noise at source, improved land use planning around airports and a wider use of aircraft operating procedures and restrictions that abate noise.

The background and justification for the new FAA rule, which becomes effective as of 3 November 2017, is published in the Federal Register. It notes that aircraft manufacturer Boeing and trade association Airlines for America had “supported all aspects” of the rulemaking proposal.

Current US operating rules require that jet aircraft meet at least Stage 3 (ICAO Chapter 3) noise limits. The Federal Register document says two organisations in proximity to Los Angeles International Airport, an airport community roundtable group and a municipality, had requested a phase-out of Stage 3 aircraft as part of the adoption of the new Stage 5 standard. However, the FAA says changes to the noise operating rules would have to be subject to full notice and comment rulemaking procedures, which have not been proposed. The previous elimination of Stage 2 operations had been required under two separate statutory provisions by Congress, it points out.

“The proposed Stage 5 rule does not provide any basis to attach an operational restriction, and none is included in the final rule,” it stated.

The ICAO noise certification requirements involves the measurement of noise levels at three different measurement points – approach, lateral and flyover – in order to characterise the aircraft noise performance around an airport. The EPNdB metric represents the human ear’s perception of aircraft noise. The requirements define noise limits that shall not be exceeded at each of the three measurement points and additional cumulative limit based on the sum of the three noise levels.

The ICAO noise standards are published in the Standards and Recommended Practices of Annex 16, Volume 1, with each new standard published as a new chapter, which becomes the shorthand designation of the new stringency. The new Chapter 14 follows the three other noise standards: Chapters 2, 3 and 4 – the jump to Chapter 14 is as a result of Chapter 5 already used for a different standard and the next available was 14.

The Chapter 4 standard came into force in January 2006 with an improvement on the previous standard of a little over 3dB on average at each measurement point.

Links:

FAA – Noise and emissions

ICAO – Reduction of noise at source

Copyright © 2017 GreenAir Communications

Provisional agreement reached to continue limiting EU ETS scope to intra-EEA flights until end of 2023

Trilogue meets to discuss Aviation EU ETS derogation extension

Thu 19 Oct 2017 – The EU Council Presidency and the European Parliament have reached a provisional compromise agreement that will extend the EU ETS derogation of international flights to and from Europe until the end of 2023. The Council had supported a European Commission proposal for an indefinite exemption of such flights pending a future review of ICAO’s CORSIA carbon offsetting scheme, whereas Parliament had voted for the derogation to finish at the end of 2020. The derogation extension will align with the end of the initial three-year pilot phase of CORSIA. The two sides also agreed to a future review to consider a declining year-on-year cap, the so-called linear reduction factor, on aviation emissions under the EU ETS from 2021 onwards. Earlier today, a Commission official briefed Environment Committee (ENVI) MEPs on CORSIA progress.

The derogation on international flights from the EU ETS, known as ‘Stop the clock’, lapsed in December 2016 and a new regulation is needed to avoid an automatic snap-back to the full scope of the scheme, which would have required all aircraft operators with flights to and from, as well as within, European Economic Area (EEA) countries to surrender permits to cover their carbon emissions from the beginning of 2017. ‘Stop the clock’ was introduced to allow ICAO States to reach an agreement on implementing a global scheme for international aviation CO2 emissions.

While the EU and its Member States have formally backed the CORSIA scheme finally approved at the ICAO Assembly in October 2016 and have agreed to join its voluntary phases from the beginning in 2021, MEPs have been doubtful over the still to be determined rules on the scheme’s environmental effectiveness. By extending the derogation only until the end of 2020, before CORSIA starts, they hoped this would persuade ICAO to take a more ambitious approach with the scheme’s design.

“We are not very convinced that the ICAO agreement will deliver enough benefits for the climate, but we want to both support the process and put pressure on international partners rather than give in too early,” said MEP Dr Peter Liese, the Parliament’s former rapporteur on the Aviation EU ETS file, after the trilogue meeting.

The Commission, on the other hand and backed by the Council, argued that such a move would create international friction and the scope of the EU ETS should remain restricted to intra-EEA flights indefinitely. The scope should be reviewed at a later date when clarity over the ICAO scheme, how it was working and which countries were participating was better known, it proposed.

The compromise reached in the trilogue negotiations yesterday would enable the adoption of the new regulation extending the derogation before the end of the year, said a Council statement. The dates for reporting and surrendering allowances from emissions in 2017 would be 31 March and 30 April 2018 respectively, it confirmed.

Provisions will also be established for a review once ICAO decisions on CORSIA have been finalised and how to incorporate the scheme into the EU ETS directive. This review will also consider whether to apply from 2021 the 2.2% linear reduction factor that applies to other industrial sectors in which the quantity of allowances linearly decreases each year, so tightening the overall emissions cap. Under present rules, the aviation sector cap remains the same in each year up to 2020, the end of the current trading period. The cap is 5% below the average annual level of aviation emissions in the 2004-2006 base year.

Parliament had also voted for the number of aviation allowances auctioned be increased from the current 15% to 50% from 2021, also to bring the sector into line with other industries, but a decision on this appears to have been put off pending the future review.

A Parliament proposal to exempt diverted flights from the EU ETS is believed to have been dropped.

The provisional agreement reached with the Parliament by the current Estonian Presidency will now be submitted to EU ambassadors for approval by the States. The two institutions will then be called on to formally adopt the regulation before entering into force.

“The EU believes all flights must contribute to cutting greenhouse gas emissions. We fully support ongoing ICAO negotiations for the development of comprehensive and unified international rules to turn this into a reality,” commented Siim Kiisler, Estonia’s Minister for the Environment, after the trilogue meeting. “In the meantime, adopting this regulation is crucial. We will provide legal certainty to aircraft operators and make sure European flights keep cutting emissions beyond 2016.”

Endorsing the provisional agreement as “the right step for a transition to a global offsetting scheme to address international aviation carbon emissions,” Thomas Reynaert, Managing Director of Airlines for Europe (A4E), said it was crucial the new regulation was adopted by the end of 2017.

“We welcome that policy-makers took into account the industry’s concern that there can be no double burden for European airlines which would put them at a competitive disadvantage,” he added. “A4E also supports the decision to stay away from a hasty change to the auctioning percentage without any comprehensive analysis of the market or assessment of CORSIA’s impact.”

A4E said it expected the ICAO scheme to be the only measure applicable to international carbon emissions from flights within the EEA as of 2021.

Environmental groups found little enthusiasm for the agreement to prolong the derogation by three years longer than originally called for by Parliament.

“Stalling European climate action in the aviation sector because of a weak international deal doesn’t do justice to the climate,” said Kelsey Perlman, Aviation Policy Officer at Carbon Market Watch. “To address the soaring emissions from flying, we urgently need other policies, including an end to subsidies, tax breaks and generous state aid.”

Brussels-based Transport & Environment (T&E) welcomed though improvements to the original Commission proposal to permanently remove international flights from the EU ETS and to ensure greater scrutiny of the CORSIA scheme.

T&E Aviation Manager Andrew Murphy said the provisional deal ensured there was no blank cheque for ICAO and recognised the need for aviation to remain inside a reformed EU ETS after 2020. However, he said, “A reformed EU ETS is also only part of the puzzle and the EU must continue to promote complementary measures such as ending tax exemptions and phasing out state aid to the sector. The Commission must also follow through on the commitment to address non-CO2 emissions.”

In his briefing to ENVI MEPs this morning, Peter Vis, Senior Adviser at the Commission’s transport directorate (DG MOVE), said the trilogue agreement would help facilitate the ongoing CORSIA discussions at ICAO.

“Europe has wanted a global market-based mechanism for longer than other States and has worked strenuously to maintain the environmental integrity of CORSIA,” he said. “CORSIA represents the best chance we have of a mechanism to complement other measures being undertaken by the international civil aviation sector to attenuate and eventually reduce its emissions.”

He reported an ICAO CAEP steering group had agreed last month on a draft CORSIA package to be recommended for adoption by the governing ICAO Council at its next meeting that runs October 30 to November 17. The package consists of draft Standards and Recommended Practices (SARPs), supporting information and documentation, and an environmental technical manual. The package was also under consideration by the Council’s Advisory Group on CORSIA and ICAO’s Air Navigation Commission. If agreed by the Council, the package would then be sent to States for comment and a final adoption is planned for June 2018, taking effect from the beginning of 2019.

He said some development work outside the package was still in progress and technical experts would be meeting in Brasilia next week on practical details such as registry functions, a simplified monitoring and reporting tool for small emitters and further work on sustainable aviation fuels.

“The focus will now be on implementation rather than the design of the instrument itself,” he said. “The basic design is settled but further refinement of some elements is still needed. It should be mentioned that CORSIA will evolve over time in the light of reviews – the first in 2022 – that will be informed by experience and new information.”

He reminded MEPs the EU was an observer and not a full member of ICAO but European negotiators had paid particular attention to ensuring the environmental integrity of the emissions unit criteria and the sustainability criteria for alternative aviation fuels under CORSIA.

Vis noted that aircraft operators will have to submit monitoring plans to their national authorities for approval during 2018. For 2019 and 2020 all States engaged in international civil aviation activity will have to ensure that airline operators monitor and report their emissions from international aviation.

“This is a very tight deadline and will require considerable effort both by States and by airlines, even those States that have not opted in to the voluntary phase,” he said.

Link:

EU Council press release on provisional agreement

Copyright © 2017 GreenAir Communications