Aviation friendly

The Society of British Aerospace Companies (SBAC) has published the fourth in a series of eleven papers that examine the industry’s progress in reducing its impact on the environment. The fourth paper explores practical alternatives to kerosene, the current aviation fuel.

The industry is faced with challenges when trying to minimise CO2 emissions, these include the high-energy content that fuels have, fuel burn and operating costs. Fuel must have a low freezing point so that it does not freeze at altitude, it must be stable in storage so that it does not degrade over time and it must be compatible with aircraft materials.

Proposals include using synthetic kerosene made from coal, gas or biomass; or biodiesel from crops such as rape, sunflowers, or plants; or hydrogenated plants and vegetable oils. However some of these offer little environmental benefit and others have technical and logistical restrictions. As a result academia and industry are working closely together to address the findings in the hope of overcoming them.

SBAC chief executive Ian Godden said: ‘Recent test flights by Airbus and Virgin Atlantic have begun the testing process for alternative aviation fuels. There is, of course, a long way to go but the search for alternative fuels is another avenue that the aviation industry is exploring as it seeks to combat the challenges of climate change.’