By 2025, more than a billion passengers could have flown on aircraft powered by sustainable fuel, according to the International Air Transport Association (IATA).
In a statement marking the recent 10th anniversary of the first flight to blend conventional jet fuel with sustainably-sourced fuel, IATA’s Director General and CEO, Alexandre de Juniac, said, ‘The momentum for sustainable aviation fuels is now unstoppable. From one flight in 2008, we passed the threshold of 100,000 flights in 2017, and we expect to hit one million flights during 2020.’
Biofuels can cut carbon dioxide emissions by up to 80 per cent, and IATA says its members are committed to a 50 per cent reduction in net emissions by 2050 compared with 2005. However, this will require significant investment and ‘enabling government policy’.
Airlines including Qantas, Cathay Pacific, FedEx Express, JetBlue, Lufthansa and United, have made significant investments by forward-purchasing 1.5 billion gallons of sustainable aviation fuel.
Qantas recently flew a 787-9 Dreamliner from Los Angeles to Melbourne using a 10 per cent blend of biofuel extracted from mustard seed by Canadian company Agrisoma Biosciences. A hectare of seed, sown in fallow areas, can yield 400 litres of aviation biofuel or 1400 litres of non-aviation diesel fuel.
Virgin Atlantic, whose aircraft made the first flight with the blended fuel in 2008, said in a statement, ‘the race is on for the world’s first truly low-carbon, commercially affordable solution to traditional jet fuel’.
Virgin Atlantic has a partnership with LanzaTech, whose technology can turn waste, including industrial waste gases, into sustainable jet fuel. LanzaTech says that about two-thirds of the world’s steel mills could be retrofitted to capture waste carbon monoxide and convert it, by fermentation, into ethanol.