The aviation industry plays a significant role in modern society. From cargo flights to leisure travel, our world would virtually collapse without planes.
Many cities, villages, and, in some cases, entire countries around the globe rely heavily on aviation to supply jobs and infuse local economies with outside income via the tourism industry. Likewise, remote areas worldwide, such as in Alaska, rely on cargo ships to send them vital goods they otherwise wouldn't have access to, like food. Lastly, the aviation industry, and mainly commercial jets, can provide individuals all over the globe with a link to one another. This provides access to advancement, whether through technology or international relations.
Yet, with this transportation mode comes many environmental concerns, including fuel emissions and the immense amount of waste. However, the heavy reliance on the aviation sector means simply phasing it out, or even significant reduction, isn’t much of an option.
Cue sustainable development.
Funded by the U.S. Airforce in collaboration with Emerging Fuel Technologies, Twelve's breakthrough E-Jet fuel promises up to 90% fewer carbon emissions than traditional fuel.
Nicholas Flanders, Twelve Co-founder and CEO, explains the process behind the concept, "Electrifying planes with batteries has proven unfeasible for at-scale decarbonization of aviation, necessitating the production of fossil-free jet fuel."
"We've essentially electrified the fuel instead through our electrochemical process, and the fuel drops right into existing commercial planes, allowing operators to instantly reduce their carbon footprint without any sacrifice to operating quality. Since you can't electrify the plane, we've electrified the fuel," Flanders continued.
In simple terms, Twelve captures CO2 from the air and uses a carbon dioxide electrolysis to convert it into functioning jet fuel. Considering the technology behind this process only became popular last year, when scientists from Oxford University utilized an iron-based catalyst for conversion, this advancement is rather impressive.
You can now find and pre-order the certified E-Jet fuel on the company's website.
Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Airforce for Operational Energy, Roberto Guerrero, said in a statement to Simple Flying, "One of our main goals with this project was to create a clean jet fuel that enhances security and energy independence without sacrificing operational readiness. The successful completion of the project proves that efficiency and environmental responsibility are not mutually exclusive."
One discrepancy worth noting is how Twelve captures the carbon. Choosing to capture carbon from the air rather than the ground, Twelve has picked the more expensive process, leading to a potential stall in the mainstream implementation of E-Jet fuel. However, considering the company's team of researchers and the ever-advancing technology, we can assume the cost of the process will decrease in the future, similar to the trends with solar power.
Regardless, the entire concept will still result in a net positive. Twelve is estimating its fuel will "address one billion tons of CO2 emissions produced by the aviation industry."
The Future of Green Aviation
According to the U.S. Department of Energy, commercial aviation alone is responsible for 13% of the U.S.'s transportation emissions. Within commercial aviation lies the tourism field: a booming, multi-billion dollar industry expected to see a resurgence after the past two years’ downward drift.
With this knowledge, key industry players such as Alaska Airlines, Delta Airlines, and American Airlines have taken significant strides to implement sustainable initiatives such as limiting waste, recycling, implementing legitimate carbon offset programs, and even dabbling in alternative energy. On the flip side, individuals can restrict the industry's footprint by limiting consumption to reduce the need for cargo planes, using other modes of transportation, or just being mindful of waste and frequency of flight.
Though these initiatives have made a dent, they can hardly keep up with the growing demand for air transportation and rapid consumerism in the western world. Nonetheless, that's not to say these efforts aren't worthwhile. On the contrary, they could help catapult even more change, such as with the Twelve’s E-Jet fuel and the growth of Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF), a greener alternative praised as the future of a more sustainable aviation industry. The International Air Transportation Association (IATA) believes that SAF can contribute majorly to the industry's shift to a net-zero future.
In the end, there are undoubtedly large numbers of individuals and companies working to implement sustainable development into various sectors. With Twelve’s E-Jet fuel showing promising signs, it appears a lot of that effort is beginning to pay off.