Virgin Atlantic successfully dropped its CO2 emissions from more than 5.2 metric tons to slightly over 4 metric tons from a series of carbon savings initiatives including purchase of a multi-billion dollar fleet investment in Boeing 787 aircraft, single-engine taxiing, real-time weather technology to optimize flight planning, and rigorous weight management of all products on the aircraft, the company says. That’s a 22% reduction in aircraft carbon emissions over the last nine years.
Virgin has also worked with Lanza Tech to create low carbon fuel through the recycling of carbon waste in industrial gases, according to Business Traveller. Last September, Virgin Atlantic announced that it had taken a significant step forward toward bringing a low-carbon fuel product to market as the result of its partnership with Lanza Tech. The two companies have been working together since 2011 to create ethanol-based biofuel made from waste industrial gases from steel mills, wrote Buying Business Travel.
Jetliner manufacturing giant Boeing says it supports the partnership between Virgin and Lanza Tech, saying biofuel can reduce emissions by up to 80% compared to fossil fuel (via Politico).
More than 99% of the airline’s direct emissions come from jet fuel use, which is why Virgin focuses most of its environmental efforts in that area, the company says. The rest come from its supply chain, another area of focus.
As studies on the viability of biofuel in aviation began to be considered in the industry, airlines came together in 2008 to form a trade organization, the Sustainable Aviation Fuel Users Group (SAFUG). The group – the members of which represent 33% of commercial aviation fuel demand – says the aviation industry is committed to achieving carbon-neutral growth by 2020. Akey strategy to reach the goal will be the use of sustainable aviation biofuels.
According to SAFUG, sustainable aviation biofuels are those that: meet or exceed jet fuel standards; have significantly lower carbon emissions over their lifecycle compared to fossil fuel sources; do not displace food crops or jeopardize drinking water supplies; minimize impacts on biodiversity and do not contribute to the clearing or conversion of natural ecosystems and areas of high conservation value; and have a positive socioeconomic impact where feedstocks are grown.
JetBlue, a member of SAFUG, wrote in its recently released sustainability report that in 2016 the company signed one of the biggest renewable jet fuel agreements in aviation history. For at least the next 10 years, the company said, it will buy blended fuel produced from rapidly replenishable biological resources. The fuel is 30% renewable and 70% traditional, and aims for at least a 50% reduction in GHG emissions per gallon, with no impact on performance or safety, according to the company.
Boeing says biofuel “represents a significant, untapped opportunity to meet aviation’s carbon emission-reduction goals and spur regional economic growth.”