Green Aviation Fuels Could Save 5 Million Tonnes of CO2 in 2030

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E-kerosene¹, generated by combining green hydrogen (H2) and carbon dioxide (CO₂), has the potential to substantially reduce the climate impact of aviation.

Originally published on Transport & Environment.

In its new forecast, T&E has analysed the planned production capacity of 18 European e-kerosene manufacturers. By 2025, T&E finds that over 0.16 Mt of e-kerosene would be available for airlines every year. By 2030, this figure will reach over 1.83 million tonnes. This represents 3.65% of fuel demand in Europe and would save the equivalent of up to 5 Mt of CO2² — or the emissions equivalent to 30,000 transatlantic flights³.

T&E’s new analysis shows that the European e-kerosene market is ready for higher rates and faster scaling of this fuel, but that policy makers are not providing sufficient incentives to develop the production further. In order to decarbonize aviation fast and efficiently, e-kerosene needs to be made readily available for airlines to blend into their existing jet fuels.

Matteo Mirolo, aviation policy officer at T&E, said: “Green e-kerosene is the clean jet fuel of the future and must be the go-to option for airlines and policy makers alike. The opportunity for Europe is unprecedented in terms of climate impact reduction, job creation and fuel strategic autonomy. Now, it’s time for national and European legislators to drive the uptake and mandate the use of e-kerosene in aviation.”

Two conditions are essential for e-kerosene to have near zero greenhouse gas emissions and to be produced at scale. First, hydrogen needs to be produced using additional renewable electricity (so-called “green hydrogen”). Second, carbon dioxide needs to be captured from the atmosphere, a process otherwise known as direct air capture (DAC). T&E’s new analysis shows that seven out of 22 manufacturers plan to include DAC as a source of CO2.

In July 2021, the European Commission proposed new legislation called ReFuelEU, to increase the share of sustainable aviation fuels (SAF) in Europe. The Commission has proposed SAF-blending mandates combined with an e-kerosene fuel subtarget. Since the original proposal landed, ReFuelEU has faced heavy scrutiny. A number of EU member states have been reluctant to keep the climate ambition of the text, going as far as including unsustainable biofuel feedstocks.

The targets for e-kerosene proposed by the European Commission in its ReFuelEU proposal are too low and start too late (no mandate in 2025 and only 0.7% in 2030). T&E’s new analysis shows that an earlier and more ambitious e-kerosene mandate of at least 0.1% in 2025 and 2.0% in 2030 is possible. This should come in lieu of biofuels derived from unsustainable feedstocks.

Matteo Mirolo added: “Europe has a once in a lifetime opportunity to become the leader for green aviation through its ReFuelEU proposal. For that, policymakers have to prioritize the right type of sustainable fuels: rather than biofuels derived from unsustainable feedstocks, the EU needs to raise the game on e-kerosene.”

¹ The terms “e-fuel”, “synthetic kerosene”, “synfuels” and “power-to-liquid” are often used interchangeably. E-fuels is a broader term covering all fuels produced using electricity; e-kerosene refers to a subcategory of e-fuels suitable for aviation.

² The emissions savings are calculated using 85% of GHG savings for e-kerosene compared to fossil kerosene. As data about the commercial production of e-kerosene are not easily available, the average between the legally required minimum GHG savings for RFNBOs (70%) and the maximum (100%) is used as a proxy.

³ Emissions from a typical transatlantic flight are calculated as an average of emissions from flights between Europe and North America, using AIS data from PlaneFinder (2019) and the Eurocontrol CO2 calculator.

Airplane at Amsterdam Schiphol Airport. Photo by Zach Shahan, CleanTechnica.

Originally published on Transport & Environment.

Analysis of green jet fuel production in Europe

Download the study.

Aircraft rely solely on fossil jet fuel to operate, leading to disastrous consequences for the planet and a dependency on imports from conflictual third countries. Sustainable aviation fuels (SAF) offer a promising alternative that will help reduce aviation’s emissions. The EU has proposed to increase the amount of SAFs used in aircraft departing from the bloc through its ReFuelEU proposal. Blending mandates, where it is compulsory for all jet fuel supplied to EU airports to have a certain proportion of SAF, are currently being negotiated in the context of ReFuelEU Aviation.

There are many types of SAFs. Renewable e-kerosene, a synthetic fuel made of CO₂ (e.g. captured from the atmosphere) and green hydrogen, is the most sustainable SAF and holds one of the keys to aviation’s decarbonization. But e-kerosene production will need to be greatly increased to make a difference.

The ReFuelEU text includes a sub-target for synthetic aviation fuels, like e-kerosene, which constitutes a great opportunity to foster e-kerosene production in Europe. However, the sub-target proposal of 0.7% by 2030 made by the European Commission is too low to have an incentivising effect on the market.

In this study, we quantify the total e-kerosene production plans in Europe. We show that there will be 0.16 Mt of e-kerosene available in Europe by 2025, produced by 10 companies, and 1.83 Mt in 2030, produced by at least 18 manufacturers. However, those growth predictions are highly reliant on favourable political conditions. Blending mandates at EU level need to be set high enough to support market ramp-up.

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