Proposed biofuel projects now half-way to commercialization ‘tipping point’

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May 14, 2019
Biofuels half way comerialization
United Airlines is among the airlines investing in biofuels. Image: United Airlines

Biofuel production will need to reach 7 billion litres annually if it is to reach the commercialization tipping point of two percent of the aviation fuel supply by 2025, an industry forum has been told.

A forum convened by the not-for-profit Air Transport Action Group heard that almost 180,000 commercial flights had been made using biofuel, also known as sustainable aviation fuel (SAF),  usually made from waste resources.

While that was a small proportion of overall fuel use, biofuel production would start over the next few years at a number of facilities currently under construction or financing.

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“To reach a commercialization tipping point – around two percent of our fuel supply by 2025 – will require some seven billion litres of SAF a year,’’  ATAG executive director Michael Gill told the Global Sustainable Aviation Forum.

“Current estimates show that production facilities to meet half that volume have already been announced.

“Importantly, we need to ensure that the output from those facilities is directed to aviation and not road transport which should be transitioning to electricity – governments have a key role to play in setting the right policy track for that.

“Let us push ourselves and help activate not just the coming six years of fuel supply, but what has to become the main source of aviation energy in the coming decades.”

Aviation was a global leader in setting up long-term goals for an industry with a pledge to reduce net CO2 emissions in 2050 to half their 2005 levels.

Gill noted this was in line with the Paris Agreement’s pledge to keep the temperature rise below 2 C but conceded it was a “considerable challenge” for the growing aviation industry, particularly when global politics were layered in.

A key mid-term measure to help the industry reach its goal is the Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation (CORSIA).

This is a market-based mechanism allowing airlines to offset carbon emissions from international air travel to which about 80 states have signed up.

It is due to be implemented in phases from 2021 and is expected to provide more than $US40 billion for climate projects offsetting at least 2.5 billion tonnes of CO2 over 15 years.

Gill called on governments meeting at the International Civil Aviation Organization to reaffirm their support for CORSIA.

“The next two years are crucial to getting this system underway,’’ Gill said.

“The industry is fully on board and airlines are already complying with the initial stages.

“With 80 States volunteering for the early phase of CORSIA, around 80 percent of the growth in international aviation emissions will be covered.

“Let’s boost this level and deliver a robust offsetting process on which we can all rely.”

ATAG is a cross-industry association with about 50 members including major associations such as the International Air Transport Association,  the Civil Air navigation Services Organization and Airports Council International as well as aircraft and engine manufacturers.