New York-based start-up Air Company has developed a carbon-neutral jet fuel and promises to begin the world's first commercial deliveries of it in 2024.
The advantage of the carbon-neutral jet fuel, which will be produced by capturing carbon dioxide from the air, is that it is fully compatible with existing aircraft.
Air Company has been developing the CO2 conversion technology since 2017, using renewable energy sources to produce hydrogen from water, then adding hydrogen to the reactor with CO2 from ethanol plants. Gregory Constantine, CEO and co-founder of Air Company said:
We can take those really pure streams of CO2 before they’re emitted into the atmosphere and utilize it in our process.
In one step CO2 can be turned into jet fuel. It's essentially a more efficient version of what plants do in the photosynthesis process, with oxygen as the only by-product.
The aviation industry aims to reach zero emissions by 2050, but plans to buy offsets and pay for carbon capture for about 20% of those emissions, rather than eliminating them directly. Although Sara Bodgan, director of sustainability at JetBlue believes that clean jet fuel “has the potential to achieve commercial viability at scale—a game-changer for our industry to significantly and quickly drive down our emissions.”
JetBlue has already committed to purchasing 25 million gallons of Air Company's new AIRMADE SAF fuel over the next five years. The start-up is now developing a large commercial jet fuel plant that will be able to meet the company's supply commitments. It also plans to start supplying the fuel as early as next year to some of its airline partners for testing. The fuel is currently undergoing ASTM testing to ensure that it works as a fossil fuel, and commercial deliveries and flights could begin in 2024.
Despite the scepticism of many in the aviation industry, it has a "strong pathway to reach cost parity" with fossil fuels within this decade, and possibly sooner. This is because political support, including subsidies under the Inflation Reduction Act for hydrogen, CO2 and green aviation, has helped speed up the timetable.
Hydrogen will not immediately replace traditional aviation fuels. However, the aim is to take the first step towards changing the energy industry from fossil fuels to fuels that are produced from carbon dioxide in one way or another.