Fueling Greener Flights and Ground Ops

Feb. 16, 2023
Drop-in solutions for jet fuel and diesel fuel can help the industry meet the lofty environmental journey that it has embarked on.
Josh Smith, editor Ground Support Worldwide
Josh Smith, editor Ground Support Worldwide

Sustainable air travel has been a significant discussion recently. Stakeholders across the industry are focused on reducing their carbon footprint and making the industry greener.

For example, in 2021, airlines pledged a commitment to achieve net zero carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by the year 2050. Furthermore, during the 41st International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) Assembly last year, officials adopted a long-term global aspirational goal (LTAG) for international aviation of net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 in support of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Paris Agreement's temperature goal. 

With the LTAG agreed to, individual governments can now work toward the same decarbonization goals.

A key component to reaching this goal is utilizing sustainable aviation fuel (SAF). SAF has garnered attention because it’s a drop-in replacement that meets all the requirements for jet fuel. According to information released by IATA in December, SAF is expected to account for 65 percent of the mitigation needed to achieve net zero emissions.

Another key moment for SAF occurred in January as Emirates operated a demonstration flight, powering one of the engines on a Boeing 777-300ER 100 percent with SAF. The flight took off from Dubai International Airport (DXB) and flew for more than an hour.

“This flight is a milestone moment for Emirates and a positive step for our industry as we work collectively to address one of our biggest challenges – reducing our carbon footprint. It has been a long journey to finally see this experimental SAF flight take off. Such initiatives are critical contributors not only to the industry body of knowledge, but also to demonstrating the use of higher blends of SAF for future regulatory approvals,” Emirates chief operating officer Adel Al Redha said in a release following the flight.

“We hope that landmark demonstration flights like this one will help open the door to scale up the SAF supply chain and make it more available and accessible across geographies, and most importantly, affordable for broader industry adoption in the future,” he added.

While the use of SAF continues to build momentum, renewable fuel is having an impact on aviation’s greener future on the ground.

Earlier this year, it was announced that ground support equipment (GSE) and other airport vehicles at Amsterdam Airport Schiphol in the Netherlands will be powered by HVO100, a renewable diesel fuel produced by Neste from 100 percent renewable raw materials. Like SAF, HVO100 is a drop-in fuel, which does not require any modifications to existing vehicles or machines, energy systems or fuel distribution infrastructures, officials noted.

According to airport figures, nearly 2,000 ground vehicles with a diesel engine operate at Schiphol. Utilizing renewable diesel fuel will reduce the emissions produced by those vehicles.

“At the moment, 40 percent of the motorized equipment at the airport runs on electricity. And that number will increase over the coming years. However, for a number of specialist heavy vehicles, it is a technical challenge to develop a battery with sufficient capacity that can also be charged quickly enough. Using Neste MY Renewable Diesel is therefore a good solution currently,” said Paul Feldbrugge of KLM Equipment Services (KES).

With the lofty decarbonization goals established by the industry, it will take innovative solutions in the air and on the ground to meet these objectives.

Has your company implemented a sustainability project that has yielded positive results? Share your success story with us. Contact me at [email protected]. I welcome your feedback on the topic.        

About the Author

Josh Smith | Editor