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Environmental issues have become a major topic of concern to the commercial aviation industry. Aviation is a global industry with global issues and challenges that require global solutions. The International Air Transport Association (IATA) estimates that commercial aviation will grow by 5% per year up to 2030, exceeding the expected efficiency gains in fuel consumption and operation of aircraft in approximately 3%. This means an increased growth of the carbon emissions resulting from the fuel consumption in aviation over the next two decades.
The increasing air traffic and fuel costs combined with the pressure to reduce CO2 emissions, for which the sector currently contributes with 2-3 % of total global emissions, puts the industry under considerable pressure. IATA is committed to ensuring that the commercial aviation industry will reach a neutral rate of growth of carbon emissions by 2020 and a 50% reduction by 2050.
The main goal for the airlines is to find an alternative fuel that is both reliable and cheaper, with scarce negative impact on the environment, which can reduce the volatility of supply and improve its distribution globally.
The use of biofuels in commercial aviation is increasingly being seen as one of the best alternatives, in response to current environmental challenges. Consequently, almost all the major airlines, and also military aviation in some countries, are committed to testing and developing biofuels that can be used safely in aviation (Table 1).
Political and legal issues also put constraints to the use of biofuels in commercial aviation sector, so their cost and speed of introduction depends largely on the adoption of governmental policies, such as establishing subsidies for research and production, changes in legislation, certification, etc.
Regarding production technological options, given the high quality required of a fuel in order to be used in commercial aviation (Table 2), the technologies for producing biofuels that do not compete directly with food production are still quite limited, although currently they do not constitute the primary obstacle to its introduction.
Among the various raw mixes available today, the cheapest option are the edible oils, i.e. palm oil and soybean oil, also called first-generation generation biofuels. Nevertheless, given the potential implications on food production, with particular emphasis on the impact in land use, this alternative should be disregarded in favor of non-edible oils, also called second-generation biofuels. Consequently there has been a refocusing of attention on non-edible oils such as: algae, jatropha, camelina, samphire, etc. However, although these oilseed crops can offer considerable potential for the production of biofuels, it is anticipated that these will only be economically viable in the long-term.
Considerable research advances are still needed in order to develop and successfully demonstrate the feasibility of converting the technologies associated with these raw materials. An emerging alternative for biofuel production is the use of biomass, although it is still too early to conclude whether this option is a viable alternative, both economically and technically.
It is expected that biomass will play a decisive role in responding to the growing demand for fuel in the aviation industry, which only stresses the need to develop an international standard for the quality of raw materials, as a precondition to support the logistics of distribution at international level and the establishment of an efficient and “environmentally friendly” biofuel.
However, the current price of biofuels is at least twice the price of traditional fuel, and it is still only available in the market in small quantities. To be viable in the long-term, the fuel would have to be environmentally and economically sustainable. The demand for sustainability is the first step towards sustainable biofuel production, although it is still necessary to undertake a more comprehensive review in particular at the level of indirect environment impacts, i.e. impacts caused indirectly by a change in land use, as well as social aspects caused by this change.
There are still many uncertainties to be dealt with and challenges to be addressed before biofuels can be used in aviation at a large-scale. Significant advances are needed in the production and distribution of raw materials, as well as in their conversion process into biofuel. The aviation industry is committed to developing alternatives to the fuel that is currently being used. Aspects such as reliability of supply, environmental and political issues, among others, are critical and instrumental to meeting this challenge.
Author: Rui Carapeto, economist, university professor and independent consultant
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In February this year, an agreement between the Portuguese Government and the French Group Vinci was signed for the acquisition of ANA – Aeroportos de Portugal, the concessionary for the management of 10 Portuguese airports (4 on the mainland: Lisbon, Porto, Faro and Beja; 4 in the Azores islands: Ponta Delgada, Horta, Flores and Santa Maria and 2 in Madeira islands: Funchal and Porto Santo), for a period of 50 years.
The Vinci Group is present in more than 100 countries through highway, railways and car parking management concessions, in addition to being responsible for the management of 9 regional airports in France and 3 inSoutheast Asia. For the Vinci Group, investing in ANA was a strategic move in an area of major interest to the Group, which is the area of airport concessions.
ANA – Aeroportos de Portugal, as a set of major hub airports, caught Vinci’s interest as the group believes that ANA high quality operation, with over 30 million passengers handled / year, mostly international traffic, showing a growth of 4 % per year on average over the past 10 years will contribute to improve the Group´s profitability. The Lisbon “hub” alone accounts for significant added value thanks to its strategic position on destinations with strong growth potential, like Brazil, Lusophone Africa – Angola and Mozambique, which are countries with which Portugal holds a special relationship.
ANA´s concession includes not only the management of Portuguese airport platforms, but also the management of their commercial spaces and ground handling services, which currently represent, as a whole, 37,8 % of the group’s turnover.
With the acquisition of ANA – Aeroportos de Portugal, the Vinci Concessions’s subsidiary intends to strengthen its position internationally in the airport concession industry, with a total turnover for the Group exceeding EUR 600 million and an EBITDA of EUR 270 million, growing to a total of 22 airports managed in Portugal, France and Cambodia, representing a total of over 40 million passengers a year, in which the “hub” Lisbon airport alone will have a major bearing of over 15 million passengers / year.
In Portugal, the Vinci Group already has a presence in the infrastructure concessions, with a share of 37 % in Lusoponte – the consortium that manages through a franchise agreement the bridges over the Tagus river, 25 April and Vasco da Gama – and also in the areas of engineering and electrical works, as shareholder in two Portuguese companies.
Privatization of ANA and its impact on the privatization of the portuguese flag carrier TAP
As Vinci’s directors pointed out, one of the goals of this operation is to improve ANA’s partnership with TAP, confirming that TAP will continue to be the leading airline company operating in Lisbon’s airport and that Lisbon will continue to be the sole “hub” and the main airport for ANA – Vinci Airports operation, despite the fact that their operation in other airports has taken on to promote the implantation of “low cost” companies.
This is one more reason for considering the importance of the airport charges policy to be followed, which will directly impact the TAP privatization process which the Portuguese government wishes to see completed by next year, for the purpose of safeguarding national interest.
The Vinci Group stated goal is to align the growth strategy of the Portuguese airports, Lisbon’s airport primarily, with the growth objectives of the national carrier TAP, in addition to strengthening TAP operation to destinations such as South America, Africa or Europe, which represent expansion goals. Another goal is, using the ANA–Vinci concession to enter international open invitations to tender for airport construction and management, for which the group is already evaluating international tenders in Latin America, Africa and Asia.
Rui Carapeto – Risk Manager and Independent Consultant
GE Aviation (GE) has announced it has signed an agreement to buy cellulosic biofuel to broaden its fuel sources for jet engine testing.
As of 2016, the Washington DC-based D’Arcinoff Group will supply at least 500,000 gallons of the fuel annually for GE’s main testing facility in Ohio.
The 10-year agreement contains options for GE to order up to 10 million gallons of synthetic biofuel a year, equivalent to the amount of jet fuel it currently uses annually at its testing centres. The financial terms of the agreement were not disclosed.
D’Arcinoff Group will produce the fuel at a Texas-based facility expected to be in operation in early 2016, according to GE. The jet engine manufacturer will then mix the biofuel in the same storage tanks as those used for traditional jet fuel.
GE has been working with government entities and airlines worldwide to demonstrate various alternative fuels in its engines since 2007.
– See more at: http://www.biofuels-news.com/
White paper 2011
The European Commission adopted a roadmap of 40 concrete initiatives for the next decade to build a competitive transport system that will increase mobility, remove major barriers in key areas and fuel growth and employment. At the same time, the proposals will dramatically reduce Europe’s dependence on imported oil and cut carbon emissions in transport by 60% by 2050.
By 2050, key goals will include:
- No more conventionally-fuelled cars in cities.
- 40% use of sustainable low carbon fuels in aviation; at least 40% cut in shipping emissions.
- A 50% shift of medium distance intercity passenger and freight journeys from road to rail and waterborne transport.
- All of which will contribute to a 60% cut in transport emissions by the middle of the century.
Operadores Aeronáuticos dos países Nórdicos, em conjunto com a Airbus e a Boeing, estão a colaborar numa iniciativa para o desenvolvimento de combustíveis sustentáveis para aviação comercial
A aviação comercial terá de tornar-se cada vez mais sustentável e o desenvolvimento de combustíveis alternativos é uma forma de atingir esse objectivo. As entidades que integram o Grupo “Nordic Initiative for Sustainable Aviation” (NISA), aeroportos, companhias de aviação e associações da indústria e autoridades aeronáuticas, às quais se associaram a Airbus e a Boeing, chegaram a acordo para constituírem uma associação com o objectivo de assegurar a disponibilidade de recursos necessários à produção dos biocombustíveis para aviação no médio/longo prazo. Combustíveis sustentáveis para a aviação comercial Apesar da aviação comercial se encontrar já hoje preparada para utilizar biocombustíveis, a produção destes combustíveis em termos comerciais encontra-se ainda a dar os primeiros passos. As especificações internacionais entretanto aprovadas e os testes já efectuados, comprovam que eles possam ser já usados nos motores actuais, bem como nos motores da próxima geração de aviões. O sector aeronáutico está preocupado que os outros tipos de transporte sejam considerados prioritários no consumo dos combustíveis renováveis e possam provocar uma concorrência acrescida sobre as matérias-primas disponíveis para a produção destes combustíveis, com consequências gravosas sobre os preços dos combustíveis para aviação. Ao contrário dos outros tipos de transporte, a aviação não tem alternativa, pelo menos no curto e médio prazo, ao combustível líquido (jet-fuel) com origem fóssil, estando muito dependente desta fonte energética.
O NISA irá estar focado em juntar os principais stakeholders na cadeia de produção e distribuição, para encontrar a melhor e mais eficiente solução energética e ao mesmo tempo, pressionar os decisores públicos, para que a aviação assegure a disponibilidade do combustível sustentável necessário.
Produção de biocombustíveis para aviação em Portugal?
Em Portugal é urgente promover a discussão em torno desta temática. A aviação comercial é demasiado importante na infra-estrutura de transporte nacional para ser relegada para segundo plano. A investigação e desenvolvimento de combustíveis alternativos para a aviação deverá ser encorajada, quer pelas entidades públicas quer privadas, podendo inclusivamente tornar-se um cluster de interesse nacional.
NISA is an active Nordic association working to promote and develop a more sustainable aviation industry, with a specific focus on alternative sustainable fuels for the aviation sector.
Nordic stakeholders within the aviation sector have joined forces to form the association NISA, in order to realize the development of new sustainable aviation fuels. The associations is established to work with biofuels issues on behalf of the aviation sector in the Nordic region.