A universal sentiment on the aviation sustainability has led CTOs from world’s major aviation manufacturers to issue a joint statement at the Paris Air Show
by DASHVEENJIT KAUR/ pic by MUHD AMIN NAHARUL
AIRBUS SE is in the middle of discussions with industry players and research and development (R&D) institutions in the country to initiate the adoption of sustainable aviation fuel (SAF).
Airbus Malaysia head of country Raymond Lim (picture) said the company is trying to see how best to engage the industry as far as research is concerned.
“This is including (engagement) with the institutions we have in the country for R&D,” he told The Malaysian Reserve (TMR) in an interview recently.
This came after AirAsia Group Bhd CEO Tan Sri Dr Tony Fernandes expressed interest to explore the production of alternative and sustainable aviation bio-fuels in Malaysia with technical support from Airbus that would facilitate the airline’s initiative.
In June this year, a universal sentiment on the sustainability of aviation led to the chief technology officers (CTOs) from seven of the world’s major aviation manufacturers, including Airbus, to issue a joint statement on the second day of the Paris Air Show.
The joint statement reiterated the aviation industry’s global commitment to reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by half of 2005 levels by 2050, and limit net growth by 2020.
Lim emphasised that Airbus is serious about sustainability, which should be the main focus in any initiatives that are being undertaken.
“The R&D intended by AirAsia will be (carried out) through Aerospace Malaysia Innovation Centre (AMIC) in which Airbus is a leading partner.
“We are trying to use it (AMIC) as a platform to carry out the R&D for biomass fuel under the SAF, but it has to meet very strict criteria for sustainability,” he told TMR.
However, Lim said no timeline has been fixed for the R&D initiatives to be completed.
“As we are talking today, we are trying to see how best to engage the industry, including the institutions we have in the country for R&D. In the next few months, we will be able to crystallise a lot of these initiatives,” he said.
To put things into perspective, aviation contributes 2% of human-made CO2 emissions.
The industry has challenged itself to reduce the net CO2 emissions despite demand for air travel and transport grows significantly.
Through the Air Transport Action Group, the aviation industry became the world’s first industrial sector to set an ambitious target — to reduce CO2 emissions by half of 2005 levels by 2050 and to limit the growth of net CO2 emissions by 2020.
To achieve such goals, AMIC is taking advantage of Malaysia’s abundance of biomass availability in its search of suitable feedstock for potential applications in aerospace such as bio-aviation fuel production and bio-composite material manufacturing, while also observing the strict sustainability factors.
As for challenges in terms of embracing sustainability in the aviation sector, Lim reckoned that as far as Airbus is concerned, the company is very determined on certain efforts.
“We are not looking at the challenges because if we do, we would have not been able to start the initiatives in the first place.
“However, we remain very focused on what we are doing as Airbus, as an organisation, is very much about having very little or no impact at all on the environment,” Lim said.
According to the International Energy Agency, the first flight that used blended biofuel took place in 2008. Since then, more than 150,000 flights have used biofuel.
Currently, only five airports have regular biofuel distribution, including Bergen and Oslo in Norway; Brisbane, Australia; Los Angeles, US; and Stockholm, Sweden — with others offering occasional supply.
Still, aviation biofuel production of about 15 million litres in 2018 accounted for less than 0.1% of total aviation fuel consumption.
Notably, SAF is currently more expensive than jet fuel, and this cost premium is a key barrier to its wider use.
Fuel cost is the single-largest overhead expense for airlines — accounting for 22% of direct costs on average — and covering a significant cost premium to utilise aviation biofuel is challenging.