Estimated reading time 6 minutes, 45 seconds.
According to the Geneva-based Air Transport Action Group, flights produced 915 million tonnes of CO2 globally in 2019, or about two per cent of total worldwide emissions. Last year, the sector transported 4.5 billion passengers. By 2037, that figure is expected to hit 8.2 billion passengers worldwide.
The International Civil Aviation Organization has established the goal of carbon-neutral growth from 2020 onwards. The objective is for air traffic to increase while never allowing annual net emissions to surpass those produced this year.
Carbon-neutral growth will rely on a number of environmental measures, including the adoption of sustainable aviation fuel (SAF). To address the issue in Canada, the Green Aviation Research and Development Network (GARDN) was set to hold a two-day conference May 12-13 in Montreal to bring together several experts on SAF, though that has been postponed amidst the COVID-19 outbreak.
SAF Talk was to be the first such conference being held in Canada and attendance was expected to top 300 people. (To register for the conference, visit www.saftalk.com/register-now.)
The theme of the conference is “One Way to Decarbonize Air Travel.”
Day one will include an overview of current Canadian SAF programs, the creation of regional initiatives and demand centres known as bioports for SAF development, innovation and production. Ottawa’s “The Sky’s the Limit Challenge” (see below) will also be discussed.
Day two will look at the Canadian policy landscape and public support for SAF, creative SAF financing, the implementation of a roadmap for the future development of SAF in Canada, and the role of airlines as end-users for SAF.
Currently, SAF is practically non-existent in Canada because there is no supply chain, according to Kateryna Derkach, director, Strategy and Sustainability, GARDN. Any SAF in Canada is typically brought in from the U.S.
“Cost is a big factor,” she explained. “In 2008, the cost of SAF was 10 to 15 times more expensive than regular aviation fuel. Today, it’s down to twice as expensive and continues to decline. The demand is there from the airlines, but they need to know what they’re getting out of it.”
SAF is produced from a wide range of sustainable sources, including waste streams, agri-residues, sustainable dedicated crops, used cooking oils and industrial off-gases. Certified SAF can be blended with conventional jet fuel and does not require changes to aircraft or special infrastructure at airports, since it meets applicable regulatory requirements.
SAF can result in CO2 emission reductions of more than 85 per cent compared to conventional jet fuel.
Derkach points to two initiatives she hopes will move the needle on SAF in Canada.
One is “The Sky’s the Limit Challenge” introduced in 2018 by Canada’s Minister of Natural Resources, Amarjeet Sohi. He issued a challenge to Canadians to develop the cleanest, most affordable and sustainable aviation fuel for the sector to further reduce its carbon footprint and fight climate change.
The challenge promotes the development of sustainable aviation fuel supply chains so the Canadian aviation industry can further reduce its greenhouse gas emissions and lower the flying public’s environmental footprint.
The challenge consists of two competitions open to a range of innovators and includes $5 million in prize money. The competition is down to four finalists.
The second initiative was announced last November, when GARDN, SkyNRG, Waterfall Group and Vancouver Airport Authority launched BioPortYVR, to increase the supply of SAF.
The first step of the project includes a comprehensive feasibility study designed to assess the implementation of an integrated SAF supply chain in B.C. The study, set to be completed by the end of March, was commissioned by GARDN and brings together leading experts in SAF initiative development and airport sustainability.
“We have to figure out how to develop the infrastructure, consider the transportation and certification issues,” said Derkach.
BioPortYVR will consider and evaluate the viability of implementing regional supply chains to distribute SAF to airlines at YVR and surrounding airports through demand centres known as BioPorts. In the coming months, the project partners will engage with industry, government and other stakeholders to develop a series of actionable recommendations for the introduction of SAF at YVR.
In fact, one of the conference speakers in Montreal will be Marion Town, director, Environment, Vancouver Airport Authority, who will talk about YVR’s role in advancing SAF in Canada.
Another keynote speaker is Alexandru Iordan, technical director, SAF+, a local consortium planning to build a plant in Montreal East to make kerosene from carbon dioxide. He will update the conference on the plant’s progress. A third speaker is Jim Lane, founder and editor of New York-based Biofuels Digest.
While Canada lags behind most developed countries in producing SAF, the use of the fuel is less than 0.01 per cent globally, noted Derkach.
The first flight using SAF occurred in 2008. This year’s target is one million flights. By 2050, 100 per cent of international aviation jet fuel demand could be met with SAF.