Google-backed data project aims to quantify the benefits of low-carbon jet fuel

Companies could gain a better insight into the carbon footprint of their travels with a software tool under development that would put information on sustainable jet fuel emissions at their fingertips.

Delta Air Lines Inc., Chevron Corp. and Alphabet Inc.’s Google said this month that they are working on a pilot program that will track and analyze emissions data for flights using sustainable aviation fuel, or SAF, providing a carbon footprint. for the overall life cycle of the fuel. The companies said they hoped to create a common model that could be used by other organizations considering the use of FAS, in the bet that verifiable information on emissions will be valuable as companies pursue reduction targets. carbon.

Amelia DeLuca, Managing Director of Sustainability at Delta, said demand for the service should be driven by companies that send staff on business flights and want to record the resulting emissions, especially if they pay a premium. surcharge for flights powered by sustainable fuel.

“For business travelers who have business travel related emissions, sustainable aviation fuel is really the only one [avenue] to achieve alignment with the Paris Agreement today in terms of reducing these emissions over time, ”said Ms. DeLuca, referring to the international treaty that aims to limit global warming.

Aviation contributes around 2% of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions, and the demand for air travel is expected to grow 3.6% annually over the next 20 years compared to 2018, according to the latest forecast from the International Civil Aviation Organization, the United Nations. aviation agency, given the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic. The expansion of the use of alternative fuels has emerged as a potential path to emission reductions for the industry and its customers.

Companies such as software provider Palantir Technologies Inc., computer maker HP Inc., and sportswear giant Nike Inc. have agreed to purchase sustainable fuel through carriers for their travel trips. business. About 7 billion liters of SAF have been pre-sold under forward purchase agreements around the world, the International Air Transport Association said this year.

But it is not easy for end users to verify the climate benefits of the FAS they are using. Airlines provide some emission data, which is often provided by third-party vendors, but less is known about the carbon intensity of FAS before it is received by the carrier. According to the International Council on Clean Transportation, a think tank, the different raw materials used for alternative fuels – typically animal fats, agricultural crops or waste – emit different levels of carbon, as do their production processes. Some of the methods could reduce emissions savings or even increase emissions in some cases, ICCT found.

Accurately accounting for carbon would involve tracking the SAF throughout its life cycle, from the production of the biomass used to make the fuel, through the refining and shipping process, to the point at which the engine fires. the plane is off.

“This is the kind of space where data is a unique challenge,” says Kellen Betts, project manager at the Center for Transportation & Logistics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. End users typically rely on models or programs to estimate their emissions rather than using primary data, Betts said.

“SAF’s demand can be dramatically accelerated by increasing transparency around commodities,” Royal Dutch Shell PLC said in a report it released on Sunday based on an aviation industry survey, adding that other factors such as greater use of certification would also accelerate adoption. .

The model tested by Google, Chevron and Delta could simplify the data collection process. It relies on a cloud-based platform that Google has said it will build to receive and analyze emissions data. Chevron to produce test batch of SAF using crushed soybean oil at its refinery in El Segundo, Calif., And provide Google with emissions modeling data as well as carbon intensity data from its supplier .

The oil major will then sell the sustainable fuel to Delta, which will provide Google with data such as the flight’s fuel consumption.

Corporate clients will be able to get a full perspective on the lifecycle of FAS, said Ms. DeLuca of Delta. “What we want to do is standardize these calculations,” she added, so that the entire aviation industry can adopt the same standard.

If it works, the new tool “would help give corporate customers and travelers confidence to step into this space” by providing a new level of transparency and credibility, said Charlotte Hardenbol, program and solutions manager at the supplier. Dutch from SAF SkyNRG. BV.

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