Aviation Emissions Could Be Recycled Into Jet Fuel

Emissions from aircraft could soon be captured and reused as jet fuel. Engineering companies around the world are developing systems that can turn potentially harmful gases into useful energy.

Douglas DC-8
Airlines are continuing to face pressure to invest in biofuel to reduce their role in emitting greenhouse gases. Photo: NASA / Eddie Winstead via Wikimedia Commons

BBC News reports that green aviation specialists, SkyNRG are working with Rotterdam Airport on a groundbreaking sustainability project. The firm is planning the world’s first commercial production of jet fuel made with carbon emissions.

How does it work?

The project involves capturing carbon dioxide, then using electrolysis to split water into hydrogen and oxygen. The separated hydrogen is then combined with the captured carbon dioxide to form jet fuel. The Netherlands based company aims to produce 1,000 liters of jet fuel a day, with plans to formally launch in 2021.

SkyNRG isn’t the only company that is close to producing recycled jet fuel. Vancouver based company, Carbon Engineering has been working on Direct Air Capture (DAC) since 2015. The business hopes that by capturing carbon emissions, it can not only be used for transportation but also for other operations such as the production of materials. New York firm, Global Thermostat has also been working on a similar capturing technology since 2010.

Carbon capture
There are numerous carbon capturing institutions around the world, hoping to help create more sustainable industries. Photo: Mm907 via Wikimedia Commons

Will it help?

While the prospects of recycling emissions for jet fuel sounds like a positive move, some environmental campaigners such as Friends of the Earth remain skeptical. They argue that even though emissions are recycled, the amount of energy produced is minimal.

“It sure does sound amazing. It sounds like a solution to all of our problems – except that it’s not,” Jorien de Lege from Friends of the Earth told the BBC.

“If you think about it, this demonstration plant can produce a thousand liters a day based on renewable energy. That’s about five minutes of flying in a Boeing 747.

“It’d be a mistake to think that we can keep flying the way that we do because we can fly on air. That’s never going to happen. It’s always going to be a niche.”

While new technologies are still in their incubation stages, de Lege claims that the best way to tackle emissions is to cut back on flying. With a reluctance to cut back on operations, airlines have implemented various techniques to reduce their carbon footprint.

Friends of the Earth
Friends of the Earth acts as one of the world’s largest environmental advocacy groups, operating in 74 countries. Photo: John Edwards via Wikimedia Commons

Other efforts

SAS recently ditched onboard duty-free shopping in a bid to save greenhouse gas emissions. This move is part of the airline’s plan to reduce its emissions by 25% over the next ten years. Along with this, Virgin Atlantic trialed a flight with recycled industrial carbon last year.

Ultimately, governments have a duty to help aviation firms adhere to environmental standards. Swedish authorities recently looked into plans to force airlines to use biofuels in order to cut emissions. Germany’s government was also considering doubling the country’s domestic aviation tax to curb the negative influence.

As the global conscience of environmental sustainability grows, there will no doubt be more green initiatives put into play. New technologies, systems and legislation will combine in an effort to curb the aviation industry’s impact on emissions.

Simple Flying reached out to SkyNRG for further comment on their project but had not heard back prior to publication. We will update with any further announcements.

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