Sustainable Jet Fuel – From ‘Wet-Waste’ to Paraffin

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Sustainable jet fuel

Recent innovation has seen the creation of sustainable jet fuel in finding a solution to reduce the tremendous amount of carbon dioxide emitted during flight travel. Researchers in the US have now found a way in which they can use our food waste to turn it into a type of paraffin (hydrocarbon liquid that is burned as fuel) that works in jet engines; contributing to cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 165% compared to fossil energy, from both the reduction in carbon emitted from aeroplanes plus diverting food waste from landfill.

The Process of Turning Waste Into Paraffin

The sustainable alternative involves turning food waste, animal manure and water waste into jet hydrocarbon. Researchers at the NREL lab in the US found a way in which they were able to use this ‘wet-waste’ so that it produced volatile fatty acids (VFA) instead of methane, in which they were then able to use a catalytic conversion to create the paraffin liquid. This new fuel also produces 34% less soot than current fuels.

Studies have shown that the innovative sustainable aviation fuel, created from wet-waste, is a low-cost feedstock with the energy potential to displace over 20% of US jet fuel consumption. Using this catalyst conversion has shown that it is almost chemically identical to those used in current jet fuel; yet minus the huge carbon emissions.

NREL's formula for SAF

The Effects Of Both C02 And Methane Gas On The Planet

Every year in the UK, 18 million tonnes of food ends up in landfill. When food waste piles up here, it rots for decades, emitting a massive amount of methane gas. This harmful gas leaks through the air and can cause warming of the earth’s atmosphere and ultimately contributes to global warming. Flying is the most damaging way to travel for the climate: Worldwide, flights produced 915 million tonnes of CO2 in 2019. With carbon dioxide levels at a record high, the greenhouse effect is in full force. The use of fossil fuels is the leading cause for this, and having a new innovative solution for jet fuel can substantially impact the planet’s sustainability. Other solutions such as battery-powered aeroplanes have been in circulation; however, asking for a new sustainable alternative to replace jet fuel has been at the top of many researcher’s lists. This process has double the effect on deducting emissions from both C02 and methane, making it an incredible result from scientists. The new fuel is planned to be used in test flights in 2023 and, hopefully, pass fuel regulatory approvals, meaning this could be the start of lowering our carbon footprint for jet fuel globally.

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