Virgin Atlantic’s 747 created aviation history to become the first commercial flight powered by a blend of the conventional jet fuel and ethanol made from waste gases to successfully complete travel from Orlando, Florida to Gatwick, London.
This is a major step in making the fuel from wastes a mainstream reality feels Sir Richard Branson the founder of the airlines, welcoming the plane on its arrival.
While this first flight had 5% recycled blend there is still potential to eventually increase up to 50%. According to the Airlines, this would reduce the overall carbon footprint significantly.
LanzaTech, the Chicago based company behind this innovation, claims that it could provide 20% of the fuel needed for the aviation industry which when compared to the normal petroleum could reduce 65% of the greenhouse gas emissions.
Virgin has sought government support and called on the ministers to back LanzaTech financially to enable them to set up 3 plants in the UK by 2025 where up to 125 m gallons of this blended fuel could be produced every year.
It’s noteworthy that in the past many such schemes have failed to succeed. For instance, the proposed East London GreenSky Factory which could have fueled all of British Airways’ flights from London never came up and in 2016 it was completely abandoned. This was due to lack of support from government criticizes the chief executive of the British Airways owner, IAG, Willie Walsh.
The Department for Transport has since committed some finances towards Velocys‘project to make jet fuel from household waste. This is backed by Shell and BA.
For the aviation industry, the target of keeping the CO2 emissions below 2005 levels by 2050 seems viable but the fact that the number of flights is expected to rapidly increase in future should also be factored in.
So far the aviation emissions have been managed by using efficient airplanes. For instance from 2007 to 2017, Virgin has seen a 24% reduction of emission by replacing its 747s with 787s. More usage of such sustainable fuels along with carbon-offsetting schemes would definitely be needed in the long run.