British Airways has announced plans to source a part of its fuel supplies from waste municipal waste to fuel plant. The company plans to procure 16 million gallons of green jet fuel annually from the Solena plant that would come up in London.
The plant which is expected to come online in 2014 would convert 50,000 tonnes of municipal waste into jet-grade fuel. The volume of fuel supplied initially would be 2 percent of the total fuel consumption of British Airways. This would cut down on the carbon emissions that is generated due to the conventional jet fuel, kerosene.
British Airways aims to obtain 10 percent of its jet fuel waste-to-energy processes.
Waste to energy process provides a three pronged advantage. One, it helps in the management of the ever increasing waste in the cities, two, it converts the methane (an efficient fuel and a greenhouse gas) which is produce from the decomposition of municipal waste and, third, its use results in reduction in carbon emissions.
Waste management is becoming a real problem in large and expanding cities like London due to shrinking areas which could be used as landfills. Landfills and recycling firms present limited solutions as waste contains significant amounts of energy which must be tapped. Decomposition of waste in the landfills not only possess risk of emissions of methane into the atmosphere but also the infiltration of hazardous, and possibly poisonous, leachate into the water table below.
Waste to energy is a much better strategy to reduce carbon emission output of the airline industry. Many airlines are looking at biofuels to reduce their carbon emissions as many countries, European Union in specific, are looking to implement aggressive emission reduction standards for airline and shipping industry.
While there are serious sustainability issues with biofuels there are no such concerns with regard to fuels from waste. Biofuels derived from corn and sugarcane have been responsible for the recent food crisis while those derived from the palm threatens rain forests. Algal based biofuels have shown promise with many new companies looking to invest in the new technology, however, the process is yet to be commercialized and is significantly costly.
Thus in the absence of third and fourth generation biofuels the only commercially and technically viable solution is generating fuel from waste.
Airlines are currently waiting for the next generation of aircrafts with energy efficient engines, which are also compliant with new age cleaner fuels, and lighter airframes. However, till the time these new aircrafts and engines are developed waste to energy solutions present the only viable alternative. But it is disappointing that BA plans to increase the use of waste derived fuels only to 10 percent by 2050 especially since London produces 3 million tonnes in organic waste every year.
Waste to energy provide one of the few sustainable solutions of generating fuels and every industrial sector must tap this opportunity in order to fulfill their growing energy demands as such solutions would reduce their carbon liabilities.
via Thomson Reuters
Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons
The views presented in the above article are author’s personal views and do not represent those of TERI/TERI University where the author is currently pursuing a Master’s degree.
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