Aviation climate challenge sets huge expectations for sustainable fuels

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In 2050, the current 787, A350, A320neo and 737 Max will be retreating into the desert. Their replacements will be in service, driven by future flight technologies that must meet an industry’s increasingly bold long-term environmental goal of reducing CO2 emissions and its contribution to climate change and an ever-changing planet. evolution.

On October 4, at its annual general meeting in Boston, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) significantly revised its collective industry environmental goals. By 2050, the group, which represents 290 airlines, has said it wants to be a net zero carbon emitter. The previous goal was to halve net emissions by 2050 based on a benchmark of 2005, when the industry globally emitted 605 million tonnes (0.605 gigatonnes) of CO2 globally.

The 2050 target is almost an ethereal concept given the current state of aviation, but it’s only a generation and a half of airframe and engine development. The central assumption of IATA, however, is that these engines will be primarily gas turbines for medium and long-haul flights.

In numerical terms, according to IATA, the long-term trajectory of the industry means a required annual reduction of 1.8 gigatons of CO2 by 2050 and a cumulative 21.2 gigatons between 2021 and 2049. In 2019, it is estimated that the industry emitted 905 million metric tonnes. of CO2 (0.905 gigatons), according to the International Council for Clean Transport, or about 2.5% of total global emissions that year.

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Overall, by 2050, only 13% of the industry’s reduction is expected to come from aircraft with new hydrogen, electric and hybrid propulsion, while 65% of carbon targets will come from the Significantly reduced footprint of sustainable aviation fuels powering traditional fuels. , but improving, gas turbine engines. Industry and environmental advocates largely view FAS as the best option to dramatically reduce emissions in the short term, with the lowest technological barriers to adoption. Today, aircraft in the United States are permitted to fly with SAFs mixed with up to 50% jet fuel.

IATA presented a best-case scenario for the industry to meet this target, increasing the use of SAF from 2% of total fuel requirements in 2025 to 5.2% in 2030, in conjunction with the implementation complete ATC upgrades for more fuel efficient routes. By 2035, SAF use will increase to 17%, with electric and / or hydrogen aircraft becoming available for flights of up to 90 minutes with 50 to 100 passengers. In 2040, the SAF climbs to 39% and hydrogen covers a significant part of the operations with 100 to 150 seats for flights of 45 to 120 minutes. During the last decade, the SAF is 54% in 2045 and 65% in 2050 while carbon neutrality is ambitiously achieved.

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