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Is Aviation Sustainability Achievable?

The airline sector is recognized as a major contributor to the annual carbon emissions in our atmosphere. Amid growing pressure to embrace sustainability, the aviation industry has been promoting alternative energy resources and practices to reduce pollution. Not too long ago, Chevron U.S.A. Inc., a subsidiary of Chevron Corporation (NYSE: CVX), and Gevo, Inc. (NASDAQ: GEVO) announced plans to collaborate on constructing and operating new facilities to convert inedible corn into sustainable aviation fuel, aiming to decrease the environmental impact of aviation fuel. These new facilities will also produce proteins and corn oil. Gevo will utilize its unique technology to produce sustainable aviation fuel and renewable blending components for motor gasoline. Apart from jointly investing in various projects, Chevron would also have the opportunity to distribute around 150 million gallons per year to customers.

Recently, ADM (NYSE: ADM), a global leader in nutrition and agriculture, joined hands with Gevo, Inc., to bolster the production of sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) and other low-carbon hydrocarbon fuels.

The partnership entails producing ethanol and isobutanol that will be transformed into renewable, low-carbon hydrocarbons, including SAF, utilizing Gevo’s technology. It is expected that around 900 million gallons of ethanol produced by ADM’s dry mills will be processed to yield approximately 500 million gallons of SAF and other renewable hydrocarbons. Isobutanol will be manufactured at a proposed new facility using ADM’s carbon capture and sequestration capabilities. Just Luxe spoke with Gevo CEO Patrick Gruber on the significance of Sustainable Aviation Fuels in the aviation sector’s future.

JL – Do you reckon Sustainable Aviation Fuels are the solution to the sustainability issue in aviation?

PG – Aviation currently faces significant sustainability challenges. This is concerning as it plays a crucial role in facilitating global travel and fostering mutual understanding – factors that benefit population worldwide.

Addressing greenhouse gas emissions in the transportation sector requires the adoption of multiple technologies that demonstrate a net reduction in carbon emissions throughout the lifecycle assessment. To sustain aviation growth and support global mobility, a diverse range of solutions will be necessary.

Our sustainable aviation fuel is interchangeable with conventional jet fuel, albeit sourced from altered carbon origins. It can be seamlessly introduced into commercial jets’ fuel tanks, meeting ASTM International standards and approved for blending with Petrojet up to 50%! The immediate impact is noteworthy: blending our SAF with Petrojet by 10% reduces the flight’s carbon footprint by 10%, with a proportional decrease for higher blends. With existing jet engines and infrastructure compatible with our SAF, we can kickstart the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions without delay, enhancing air travel’s carbon efficiency.

PG – At Gevo, our operational philosophy revolves around fostering sustainability across all processes. Our bio-based feedstocks, primarily corn, are sourced sustainably, ensuring a holistic sustainable approach from inception to implementation. The corn utilized is not for direct human consumption but grown for its protein, oil, and starch content. We collaborate closely with farmers to encourage sustainable farming techniques that enhance soil carbon and yield per acre, rewarding them for raising farming standards. By incorporating a lifecycle perspective, our operations exhibit a reduced carbon footprint, reflecting our commitment to environmental stewardship.

Besides altering carbon origins, our SAF contributes to mitigating aviation pollution beyond greenhouse gas emissions. It features lower particulate pollution due to its absence of sulfur, nitrogen, and aromatics. As an integral segment of our sustainability plan, the protein derived from corn plays a fundamental role in animal nutrition, reinforcing the symbiotic relationship between food and fuel production. Water conservation and utilization are vital components of sustainability, evident in our wastewater treatment approach integrating biogas production and renewable energy sources to enhance efficiency and resource stewardship.

JL – What implications will SAF introduce for aircraft maintenance?

Given the molecular identity of our sustainable aviation fuel with conventional jet fuel, maintenance impact is anticipated to be negligible.

PG – How will SAF influence ticket prices for customers?

Each airline holds distinct sustainability objectives and strategies. Companies prioritizing sustainability and carbon reduction are likely to thrive in the long run. The synergy between economic and sustainable considerations underpins a holistic approach toward profitability and environmental stewardship.

JL – What investment strategies are outlined for the facility?

Gevo is in progress with the engineering phase for our premier plant in Lake Preston, South Dakota, showcasing our commitment to high-value nutrition products and energy-dense liquid hydrocarbons. Ongoing efforts to enhance sustainability and reduce greenhouse gas emissions necessitate constant adaptation and evolution of our strategic investments.

Image Source: luis Abrantes / Shutterstock

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