British Airways is working with a partner to change the fuel its jet engines are powered by from petroleum-based jet fuel to alcohol. This aims to help reduce the carbon cost of the flight industry.
The UK airline is partnering with LanzaJet, a US-based producer of sustainable biofuel which is made from organic grain alcohol that is sustainably sourced.
The sustainable ethanol is then converted using a patented chemical process into aviation fuel that emits 70 per cent fewer greenhouse gases compared to the traditional jet fuel, which tends to cost less for airlines but is significantly more polluting.
One of the difficulties in switching to less polluting and more sustainable fuel sources is the need for a very low freezing point due to the lower temperatures above the atmosphere.
British Airways has funded the construction of a new commercial-scale plant in Georgia, which creates a sustainable version of jet fuel from bioethanol, and is set to begin fuelling flights with the sustainable fuel from the end of 2022.
What has helped with the transition is that by creating a fuel similar to jet fuel, the current engines and aircraft can continue to be used whilst the aviation industry finds other long term solutions to decarbonise the industry by 2050.
As the aviation industry is responsible for 3 per cent of all carbon dioxide emitted into the atmosphere, a substantial change is needed to ensure the industry remains viable and sustainable.
Sustainably sourced alcohol is one solution that has been proposed, as well as hydrogen fuel cells and algae-derived jet fuels.