Editor's Comment: Sustainable alternative aviation fuel

Sixty eight member countries of ICAO will begin the process for reduction in net aviation CO2 emissions to 50% on a voluntary basis from 2021.

Martin Menachery, editor, Refining & Petrochemicals Middle East.
Martin Menachery, editor, Refining & Petrochemicals Middle East.

In 2009, International Air Transport Association (IATA) had pledged to address the global challenge of climate change and has put in place three major steps to mitigate CO2 emissions. The first step was to implement an average improvement of 1.5% in fuel efficiency per year from 2009 to 2020, mainly through the introduction of technologically advanced and new aircraft. The second step was a cap on net aviation CO2 emissions from 2020, i.e., carbon-neutral growth. The third step was reduction in net aviation CO2 emissions of 50% by 2050, compared to the 2005 levels. This decision was endorsed by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO). The mandatory start-date for this third step is 2027.

When we consider the progress made by the aviation industry on this pledge, it is important to note that the shift towards usage of sustainable aviation fuel is already under way – this year, 25 airlines have planned to operate over 5,000 flights using aviation fuel mixed with sustainable alternative fuel on a trial basis. Another important step is the decision of 68 member countries of ICAO to begin the process for reduction in net aviation CO2 emissions to 50% on a voluntary basis from 2021.

While the commitment of the global aviation industry to cut CO2 emissions is evidently sincere, the prevailing low oil prices are reducing the momentum in the development of sustainable alternative types of jet fuel. As the conventional jet fuel prices remain low, there is no incentive for the energy companies to invest in new technologies and, as a result, it is not easy to get the necessary finance for sustainable alternative jet fuel initiatives. It is important to note here that if the global aviation industry wants to meet its 2050 goal, the only way is to ensure availability of economically viable sustainable alternative aviation fuel.

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