UK sustainable aviation industry group plots roadmap towards a 30 per cent uptake in aviation biofuels by 2050

UK sustainable aviation industry group plots roadmap towards a 30 per cent uptake in aviation biofuels by 2050 | Sustainable Aviation,Jonathon Counsell,Matt Gorman,Andy Jefferson,TUI Travel,E4tech,Committee on Climate Change,CCC

Mon 17 Feb 2014 – The UK cross-sector industry group Sustainable Aviation (SA) has started work on a roadmap to plot a path towards achieving a 30 per cent take-up of sustainable alternative aviation fuels by 2050. These fuels are expected to show lifecycle savings of 60 per cent compared to their fossil fuel equivalent and therefore contribute to an overall reduction of 18 per cent in UK aviation CO2 emissions. According to the incoming Chair of the group, British Airways’ Head of Environment Jonathon Counsell, one of the aims of the roadmap is to stimulate UK government action on aviation biofuels. The roadmap is expected to be unveiled at the Farnborough air show in July and will follow the publication of other SA roadmaps over the past two years covering CO2 emissions and aircraft noise. Achievements by the group and members during the period are detailed in its Progress Report 2013 just published.


“The primary purpose of the Sustainable Aviation Fuels Road-Map is to demonstrate to the UK government that this represents a serious opportunity and then encourage them to provide us with the incentives we are looking for and a level playing field with ground transport fuels,” said Counsell, who will chair SA over the next two years. “Other countries are doing so much more in supporting the local development of sustainable aviation fuels – we just want our government to do the same.”


Counsell believes that although the UK government considers there is a long-term role for such fuels it does not see near-term opportunities, unlike countries such as Germany, Finland, Mexico, Australia, the United States and others. However, he is encouraged by a recent show of support from the present aviation minister for the development of the roadmap, as well as for the British Airways project with Solena for a municipal waste to jet fuel plant in east London and Virgin Atlantic’s biofuel partnership with LanzaTech.


An alternative fuels working group has been set up by SA to develop the roadmap, with sustainable energy consultancy E4tech providing input. E4tech has previously advised the European Commission on its European Advanced Biofuels Flightpath Initiative and reviewed the potential for aviation biofuels in a major report on aviation emissions published by the UK’s Committee on Climate Change in 2009.


Launched in 2005 and now with 39 members, Sustainable Aviation remains the only such national initiative of cross-sector interests formed to develop a common strategy on emissions and noise reductions.


“For both carbon and noise, our approach has been to bring together experts from across the aviation industry – aerospace manufacturing, airlines, airports and air traffic control,” writes outgoing Chair, Matt Gorman, Sustainability Director, Heathrow Airport, in the foreword to the Progress Report. “Those experts have pooled their experience and knowledge on future technology, operating procedures and sustainable fuels to produce detailed Road-Maps which give Sustainable Aviation’s view of how future growth in UK aviation can be accommodated without significant increases in absolute CO2 emissions and with reductions in noise output.”


Counsell said that following the CO2 roadmap, industry had been asked by successive UK transport ministers to come up with a similar assessment on noise as on carbon. “As far as I’m aware, our Noise Road-Map is the first of its kind anywhere in the industry. It’s more complicated than a CO2 roadmap since measuring noise impacts is challenging.


“The roadmap shows, as with our CO2 roadmap, the industry can decouple a substantial future growth in traffic with noise impacts. It’s a reflection of just how quiet the next generation of aircraft will be. Our next step is to draw up action plans to deliver against the targets.”


Aside from new aircraft replacement, SA’s noise roadmap identifies that operational improvements could offer between a 1 and 5 dB reduction in noise by 2030 compared to 2010, the precise level of reduction varying for different communities depending on their current noise exposure and local scope for adopting new techniques. Such procedures include continuous descent approaches (CDAs), continuous climb operations (CCOs), steeper approaches, performance based navigation (PBN) and reduced engine taxiing. A SA new group led by a NATS representative will develop a range of national targets on the use of such techniques, starting with CDAs, reported Counsell.


Another big step forward for the industry group has been the appointment of the former head of sustainability at London Stansted Airport, Dr Andy Jefferson, as Programme Director. “This has seen a major step change in the volume of work undertaken by SA,” said Counsell.


In addition to the aviation fuels roadmap and the development of a programme of operational improvements to support delivery of the noise roadmap, over the next two years SA is looking to develop new guidance policy on noise nuisance and land use planning controls close to airports, as well as undertake future scenarios to identify the contribution the aviation industry can make to the UK economy in terms of potential jobs, skills, innovation and economic value.


Meanwhile, the group has announced that TUI Travel, which operates six holiday airlines including SA founder member Thomson Airways, has been given a seat on SA’s governing Council. TUI Travel will be represented by Jane Ashton, Group Director of Sustainable Development and Eddie Redfern, Head of Regulatory Affairs (Aviation).




Sustainable Aviation

Sustainable Aviation Progress Report 2013 (pdf)



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