Fighting waste with waste: a new type of jet fuel?

There’s been a rise in the number of people choosing the travel by plane. It’s a trend that is set to keep on increasing, so the impact on the environment must be considered. But just how is jet fuel changing to keep up with both the demand and the need to become greener? Could waste be used to fuel aeroplanes as a method to actively reduce waste? Together with waste management specialists Reconomy, who offer unparalleled skip hire services, we take a look at the future of jet fuel and waste.

Government action as a result of changing travel choices

Five new low-carbon fuel plants could potentially come from a £22 million investment planned by the government. This will cause a ripple of change in the UK’s waste industry. Comments from the Department of Transport said that planes and lorries that have the potential to be driven by waste could use up to 90% less carbon in comparison to regular fossil fuels. This news comes at a time where the UK wants to become a zero-emission zone by 2040 with the removal of petrol and diesel cars and is eager to invest in environmental alternatives.

But what changes have occurred to spur the government to look into investing such a sum into low-carbon routes?

2.14 billion people travelled by aeroplane in 2005 – this rose to 2.26 billion in 2006. In 2007, the result grew significantly and stood at 2.46bn. 2.49bn was the result for 2008. However, in 2009 this number dropped to 2.48bn. Without failure, 2010 saw a higher climb as the number of people travelling hit 2.70bn — a momentous increase. In 2011, the figure increased to 2.86bn.

By 2012, the number increased again, reaching the 3 billion mark. This trend continued into 2013, with 3.15 billion people travelling. This increased in 2014 with 3.33bn travelling. Although this has been increasing over time with only one drop, it is expected to rise further. 2015 saw 3.57bn travel and in 2016, there were 3.77bn travellers.

But as more people take to the skies, air pollution continues to rise. Aeroplanes emit particles and gases into the air which is causing a long-term effect on global dimming, climate change and ocean acidification. With more people jetting off, action needs to be taken and this has been the driving force behind the big investment, of which 70 groups are bidding for the funding.

Fuel in action

Along with the government’s investment plan, British Airways and Velocys have teamed up to invest in a project to turn waste into renewable jet fuel, which is due to be announced by 2019. The waste plant used is expected to bring in hundreds of thousands of waste produce each year, which will be converted into clean-burning fuel that will later be used to help get British Airway planes off the ground. The waste that is used is expected to reduce greenhouse gases by 60%, with a 90% reduction in particulate matter emissions in comparison to traditional jet fuel.

China: Hainan Airlines

In an impressive step, Hainan Airlines recently achieved a 12.5-hour flight from Beijing to Chicago using 85% jet fuel and 15% biofuel. The cooking oils, which included vegetable oils and animal fat, were taken from restaurants; and this could help reduce emissions by 50%, if used instead of normal jet fuel.

United States: United Airlines

With a combined use of household and agricultural waste, United Airlines now use around 70% conventional fuel and 30% biofuel. From this, carbon dioxide emissions will be reduced by a huge 60% on a lifecycle basis in comparison to conventional jet fuel.

Germany: Lufthansa

Lufthansa is also embracing more biofuel options for its airline. In 2016, it entered a contract with a company that produces biofuel from grain. Lufthansa will purchase 8 million gallons of biofuels per year until 2020, and has already done many biofuel and jet fuel testings on commercial flights.

Australia: Qantas

Qantas in Australia has also made notable steps towards using biofuel for aeroplanes. In 2012, Qantas flew an Airbus A330, which is a wide-body jet with a twin engine, and powered it with 50% cooking oils and 50% conventional jet fuel. In 2018, Qantas hopes to achieve a flight from Australia to America with 30% biofuel from mustard seeds and 70% conventional fuel. This should reduce emissions by 20%.

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