The airline industry does not have time to wait for the end of the pandemic crisis to accelerate its green shift, believes the boss of Airbus. A new fuel made in Quebec could help it.
“Let’s be frank. We are still in the middle of the crisis, and the return to normal will take a long time, ”the CEO of the European aeronautics giant, Guillaume Faury, observed Tuesday at the Montreal Conference. Global air traffic volume was still, last month, at 70% of what it was before the COVID-19 pandemic for domestic flights and only 50% for international flights. “Domestic flights are not expected to return to their 2019 levels before 2023, and even later for international flights. “
Despite everything, the aeronautics industry continues its efforts to reduce its environmental footprint. Responsible for 2 to 3% of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions on the planet, commercial air carriers have notably committed to halving the volume of their GHGs by 2050 compared to 2005 levels.
To help them do this, Airbus believes it will be able to deliver by 2027 a first aircraft that will achieve carbon neutrality, for entry into service in 2035. “The airline industry is at a pivotal moment, and these changes are necessary” , said the French businessman. “It will be very expensive, it will be very demanding, […] but it is no longer a technological problem. Unlike five or ten years ago, we can now see how we can get there. “
This transition will take place in several stages, he explained. In the short term, it will be a question of replacing the oldest and most polluting aircraft with new, more efficient aircraft. Better management and better regulation of aircraft traffic, in the air and on the ground, would also allow a 10% reduction in their GHGs. In the longer term, Airbus is counting on the development of aircraft equipped with hydrogen engines as well as on the replacement of kerosene by “sustainable aviation fuels” (Sustainable Aviation Fuel or SAF, in English) for current and future aircraft.
Quebec green fuel
One of these synthetic fuels could be produced in Quebec.
Formed among others from Airbus, Air Transat, the Aéro Montréal industrial cluster, Montréal Airport and Polytechnique Montréal, the SAF + Consortium announced on Tuesday that it had manufactured such a liquid fuel for the first time in Canada by mixing of industrial CO emissions2 and hydrogen produced with Quebec renewable electricity. “These first liters of electric fuel represent a historic moment and an important milestone for SAF +”, declared its CEO, Jean Paquin, within the framework of the Montreal Conference.
Coming from a pilot plant located next to Chimie ParaChem’s facilities, in eastern Montreal, this new fuel has the ability to reduce GHG emissions by 80% to 100% compared to fossil kerosene when account for all of their respective life cycles. Its use – and therefore the gains that can be expected from it – is currently limited to 50% while waiting for it to pass all the certification stages.
Its inventors now expect to have built within four to five years a real factory capable of producing 30 million liters of fuel per year, thereby contributing to reducing the GHG emissions of airlines by 120,000 tonnes, the equivalent of 30,000 cars. From $ 1 to $ 1.50 per liter, its price should then be two or three times higher than that of kerosene, said Jean Paquin in a telephone interview at To have to.
Air Transat has nevertheless reserved up to 90% of this production. “We firmly believe in the future of SAF +, because, at the present time, it is one of the most promising means to reduce our carbon emissions and we must accelerate its development”, declared his p.- CEO, Jean-François Lemay.