Biofuel For The Long Haul: Boeing aims for planes to fly on 100% biofuel by 2030

February 17, 2021

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3 min read

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What's going on here?

American aviation giant Boeing has announced plans for all commercial aeroplanes to operate on only biofuel or sustainable aviation fuel by 2030.

What does this mean?

This shows that the company is taking important steps to promote long term sustainability, combatting the environmental issues which the aviation industry contributes to considerably. Back in 2018, Boeing was the first in the world to fly a commercial flight using 100% biofuel, and it now plans to make this the norm for every flight by the end of the decade. With no jet systems currently capable of doing this, the ambitious plans require Boeing’s engineers to make major technological advances, and global regulators will need to provide safety certifications before the planes take off. The US-based plane manufacturer must also decide where it will source the biofuel from, with options varying from animal fat to vegetable oil to general waste, and each one coming with its own safety aspects to consider.

While Boeing recognises that this is likely to be a huge challenge, the plan makes up just part of Boeing’s longer term goal to halve carbon emissions by 2050. However, this is shaping up to be a mammoth task, particularly as the company attempts to overcome losses caused by the pandemic, and a 20-month grounding of its most in-demand aircraft following 2 fatal crashes (read our report on that here). With both issues putting a strain on finances and engineering resources, it is safe to say that reaching this goal will be no walk in the park.

What's the big picture effect?

Recent years have seen many large corporations increasingly make efforts to move towards more sustainable ways of doing business. According to data by the Air Travel Action Group, commercial flying accounts for 2% of global carbon emissions, and 12% of travel emissions. This explains why the aviation industry is taking crucial steps towards significantly reducing its carbon footprint, and why environmental issues are central to many companies’ corporate social responsibility practices.

Corporate social responsibility (CSR) has gained traction in recent years, with many companies implementing more environmentally conscious initiatives. CSR refers to strategic business activity to boost the sustainability of a company, which often includes new eco-friendly projects and investments.

For example, Boeing also plans to reduce the weight and drag of new aircrafts to decrease fuel consumption, and it is not the only one to focus on environmental initiatives, with other major plane manufacturers also making commitments to greener business practices. Airbus is one example, currently striving to operate commercial hydrogen flights by 2035, which is another large effort towards reducing the emissions of greenhouse gasses. In a world increasingly concerned with climate change, a move to more sustainable business practices, particularly in the aviation industry, is encouraging.

Overall, this is particularly important for large companies such as Boeing, as it sets an example for others, leading to more environmentally conscious change. The announcement also came shortly after 9 UK-based organisations, including Ocado Group and Cranfield Airport Operations, formed a new ‘Airspace of the Future’ alliance in response to the government’s new industrial strategy. Under this strategy, UK Research & Innovation has committed to supporting businesses which develop technology and systems to modernise and decarbonise aviation. Despite the industry currently facing difficult times due to reduced commercial air travel, could this project place the UK in a strong position to drive a sustainability-centred  3rd revolution in aviation?

Report written by Lotanna Okaro 

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