Feasible Ways for the Aviation Industry to Cut Back Emissions

While the aviation carbon emissions only account for about 1.7% of the global greenhouse gas emissions, there is a growing clamor for carbon-neutral flying among consumers, especially the millennials and Gen Z. 

In a recent survey released by the McKinsey & Company, about one-third of respondents said they were willing to pay more for carbon-neutral tickets, adding that they were even planning to reduce their travel due to climate concerns. 


The Paris Agreement: Background 

In December 2015, hundreds of countries signed the Paris Agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and ultimately limit global temperature increase to below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels by 2100. As of 2020, 194 UN member states have signed the agreement. 


Feasible Ways to Reduce the Aviation’s Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Airlines worldwide have adopted measures to reduce emissions such as improvement in air traffic management and operational efficiency and newer aircraft with better engines and aerodynamic design (e.g., planes made of lighter construction materials). All these combined efforts have resulted in 20-30% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. 


New Aircraft Design

In 2018 alone, airlines spent around $120 billion on new aircraft equipped with more energy-efficient engines, such as the twin-engine models that use 20% less fuel than the four-engine planes. 

For a bona fide carbon-neutral flying, scientists are looking into the possibility of aircraft running on electricity or hydrogen, although with the current technology, these two power sources are not yet feasible because of how much their batteries weigh that makes them unsuitable for long-haul flights. 

However, hybrid flying–i.e., turbo-electric and hydrogen-powered plane–is a more cost-effective alternative, especially when used in smaller and lighter aircraft. Hydrogen is particularly exciting because it emits no CO2, which is the principal gas that contributes to global warming. 


Capture CO2 from the Air 

There are two ways to capture CO2: directly from the air and straight from the site where the material is burned (e.g., waste incineration facility). While capturing this gas directly from the source is more cost-effective than collecting it from the air, the latter remains a viable option not just in aviation but also in other polluting sectors like agriculture, road transportation, and fuel and power for residential and commercial buildings. 


Possible Use of Synthetic Fuel 

Synthetic fuels might be a more environment-friendly alternative to fossil fuels. Research is still underway to turn CO2 captured from the air into synthetic fuel with the use of economical processes. 

However, today’s technology does not make synthetic fuel a cost-effective alternative because turning the captured CO2 into fuel requires a large amount of energy from fossil fuel. Simply put, this is only viable if all the power used to “process” the gas is from carbon-neutral sources like solar and wind energy.  


Operational Efficiency

Surveys show that fuel accounts for 20-30% of operation costs, prompting airlines to find ways to improve their operational efficiency. While lighter construction materials can help, some studies have shown that addressing employees’ behavior, especially the pilots’, can further reduce fuel consumption. 

In a study involving Virgin Atlantic Airways pilots, the researchers found that employees who were provided with information about their fuel use and loading and other monthly assessments used less fuel than their counterparts who did not receive such information.

Aside from employees’ behavior, the aviation industry can also reduce their fuel consumption by improving efficiency in air traffic control and air traffic management (to prevent unnecessary “zigzagging” during flights). However, this requires a joint effort from the governments, regulators, military, and other stakeholders. 


Fuel-Efficiency for Small Aircrafts 

Small aircraft owners can reduce their fuel consumption by making sure that their exhaust system is working properly. 

Unlike a car exhaust system, the aircraft has more important functions: It improves fuel consumption and engine performance, reduces noise, and directs fumes away from the passengers. 

If you need aircraft exhaust system repair and maintenance, contact Knisley Welding at 800-522-6990 or ask them for a repair quote by clicking here