Climate change: a new jet fuel from waste 'dramatically lowers' emissions

A breakthrough in reducing carbon emissions developed in the USA

Date Published: 2021-08-31

According to recent scientific studies in the USA, a breakthrough in reducing carbon emissions has been developed from converting so-called wet waste into jet fuel. Normally such waste is disposed of due to high water content, but US scientists have found a way to use it and potentially cut greenhouse gas emissions by 165% compared to fossil fuels.

Jet fuel from wet waste

The US Study revealed that there is a way to produce paraffin from wet waste which typically contains food waste, animal manure and wastewater and convert it into competitive jet hydrocarbon.

So how does this new jet fuel work

Derek Vardon the lead author and senior research engineer at the US Renewable Energy Lab said, "There's exciting jet fuels that rely on burning trash and dry waste but this works for those wastes that have high water content, which we normally dispose of in a landfill. Being able to show that you can take these volatile fatty acids and that there's a really elegant, simple way to turn it into jet fuel - that's where I see the broader applicability of this one, and folks can continue to develop and refine it."

The new fuel could have a significant impact on emissions as it limits C02 coming from fossil sources and also gets rid of methane gas that would come from dumped waste food.

Can the new jet fuel help airline companies in their ecological approach?

The aviation industry is being pressured in finding sustainable ways to reduce environmental pollution and move towards sustainable solutions. At this moment, it's certainly worth testing to see if this helps reduce CO2 emissions using jet fuel from waste.

One of the companies highly interested in the new fuel is Southwest Airlines. Experts aim to start the test flights with the airline company by 2023. If successful, there is no doubt that it will be a huge step for airline companies and climate activists towards switching to a more sustainable travel method.

What are other airlines doing to be more sustainable?

Finnair is taking action in terms of driving sustainable travel and fighting climate change. The company aims to cut its emissions by 50% by 2025 making it more attractive to customers and investors who are pushing for change.

Things like technological advancement, operational improvements, and route planning have all managed to reduce emissions and is a system that every airline could use. According to their statements, they will commit 3-5-4Bn euros to improve their fleet that in turn will reduce emissions by 10-15% in European traffic.

Finnair is working with Neste, the worlds largest producer of sustainable fuels refined from waste to produce biofuel for Finnair but it will be interesting to see if Neste also similarly tackle wet waste.

The good news is that Finnair isn’t unique in taking vital actions to combat climate change.

Switching towards more ecological approaches is vital

The airline companies’ current move to more ecological approaches is down to consumers, investors and political pressure. The number of passengers in the world is constantly growing. The more passengers travelling, the more emissions are produced. Between 1999 and 2018, the globe went from 2.8 billion to 8.2 billion passenger-kilometres. According to the ICAO, by 2035, passenger traffic and cargo volume are expected to double.

Low-cost airlines are playing a major role in this expansion. Their growth is faster than the world average and they capture a great share of the market. These companies carried around 31% of global passenger traffic in 2018. Due to the high impact on the environment produced by airline companies, governments and climate activists are putting pressure on the carriers to opt for more ecological approaches. Additionally, numerous airlines understand that by implementing greener methods, they become more attractive to customers, especially millennials.

Airline companies are more than ever concerned about climate change and finding more sustainable methods to fly. We support this and aim to show airlines how they can earn more without increasing their carbon footprint by selling ancillary services.

There is a long way to go. But there is hope. New advances like developing fuel from wet waste, should be applauded.